Legume shovelomics: High-Throughput phenotyping of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata subsp, unguiculata) root architecture in the field

James Burridge, Celestina N. Jochua, Alexander Bucksch, Jonathan P. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Low phosphorus (P) availability and drought are primary constraints to common bean and cowpea production in developing countries. Genetic variation of particular root architectural phenes of common bean is associated with improved acquisition of water and phosphorus. Quantitative evaluation of root architectural phenotypes of mature plants in the field is challenging Nonetheless, in situ phenotyping captures responses to environmental variation and is critical to improving crop performance in the target environment. The objective of this study was to develop flexible high-throughput root architectural phenotyping platforms for bean and cowpea, which have distinct but comparable root architectures. The bean phenotyping platform was specifically designed to scale from the lab to the field. Initial laboratory studies revealed cowpea does not have basal root whorls so the cowpea phenotypic platform was taken directly to field evaluation. Protocol development passed through several stages including comparisons of lab to field quantification systems and comparing manual and image-based phenotyping tools of field grown roots. Comparing lab-grown bean seedlings and field measurements at pod elongation stage resulted in a R2 of 0.66 for basal root whorl number (BRWN) and 0.92 for basal root number (BRN) between lab and field observations. Visual ratings were found to agree well with manual measurements for 12 root parameters of common bean. Heritability for 51 traits ranged from zero to eighty-three, with greatest heritability for BRWN and least for disease and secondary branching traits. Heritability for cowpea traits ranged from 0.01 to 0.80 to with number of large hypocotyl roots (1.5A) being most heritable, nodule score (NS) and tap root diameter at 5 cm (TD5) being moderately heritable and tap root diameter 15 cm below the soil level (TD15) being least heritable. Two minutes per root crown were required to evaluate 12 root phene descriptors manually and image analysis required 1 h to analyze 5000 images for 39 phenes. Manual and image-based platforms can differentiate field-grown genotypes on the basis of these traits. We suggest an integrated protocol combining visual scoring, manual measurements, and image analysis. The integrated phenotyping platform presented here has utility for identifying and selecting useful root architectural phenotypes for bean and cowpea and potentially extends to other annual legume or dicotyledonous crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-32
Number of pages12
JournalField Crops Research
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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