Application of X-ray computed tomography to quantify fresh root decomposition in situ

Rebecca E. Haling, Matthew K. Tighe, Richard J. Flavel, Iain M. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Much of our understanding of plant root decomposition and related carbon cycling come from mass loss rates calculated from roots buried in litter bags. However, this may not reflect what actually happens in the soil, where the interactions between root and soil structure presents a more complex physico-chemical environment compared to organic matter isolated in a porous bag buried in disturbed soil. This work investigates the potential of using X-ray micro-computed tomography (CT) to measure root decomposition in situ. Methods: Roots of Vicia faba L. were excised from freshly germinated seeds, buried in re-packed soil cores and cores incubated for 60 days. Changes in root volume and surface area were measured using repeated scans. Additional samples were destructively harvested and roots weighed to correlate root mass with root volume. The method was further applied to an experiment to investigate the effects of soil bulk density and soil moisture on root decomposition. Results: Root volume (X-ray CT) and root mass (destructive harvest) decreased by 90 % over the 60 day incubation period, by which stage, root volume and mass had stabilised. There was a strong correlation (R 2 = 0.97) between root volume and root mass. Conclusions: X-ray CT visualization and analysis provides a unique toolbox to understand root decomposition in situ. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-627
Number of pages9
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2023-02-15

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Soil Science


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