Modelling maize root plasticity in response to soil nitrogen

This project will work to mitigate significant crop yield losses due to drought and salinity stress. The increasing frequency of dry periods as well as the problems associated with salinity in irrigated and coastal areas frequently result in the co-consecutive occurrence of drought and salinity stress in agro-ecosystems.


Both drought and salinity can reduce plant growth due to the high osmotic potential in the soil, leading to osmotic stress. Water and nutrients are not homogeneously distributed in the soil, and therefore the spatial and temporal arrangement of the root system is crucial for the optimal capture of soil resources and stress avoidance. Understanding plant traits that enhance plant performance in drought and salinity will enable the development of more resilient and productive crops and cropping systems.

We will work to understand and characterize root and shoot traits in various temporal drought and salinity stress regimes for the development of more productive crops. In addition, we will work to understand optimal irrigation regimes during plant development to maximize water use efficiency. Understanding plant adaptations to drought and salinity stress could provide useful breeding targets for crop improvement.

Types of work

You will conduct a series of experiments in the greenhouse or field using a set of diverse genotypes. Plants will be grown under various salinity and drought stress regimes and plant responses will be measured.

The project involves the following techniques:

  • microscopy
  • image analysis
  • measure plant growth and development including root respiration, leaf area, gas exchange, etc.