Research Topic

Branching and Rooting Out with a CT Scanner: The Why, the How, and the Outcomes, Present and Possibly Future

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The use of computed tomography (CT) scanning with plants belongs to the context of the incorporation of new technologies in scientific research work. Since CT scanners were originally designed for medical applications and later for industrial applications, some adjustment to the reality of the plant world is ...

The use of computed tomography (CT) scanning with plants belongs to the context of the incorporation of new technologies in scientific research work. Since CT scanners were originally designed for medical applications and later for industrial applications, some adjustment to the reality of the plant world is necessary, in the air or soil medium depending on the plant structure of interest (canopy or root system).
The first CT scanning applications in plant science (early 1990s) concerned roots, and simply consisted in visualizing portions of the root system through a few 2-D cross-sectional CT images, with no attempt to isolate the entire root system from the soil medium and produce a 3-D image. Interestingly, CT scanning applications to study plant canopies and relate the complexity of branching patterns to light interception in particular came later (early 2000s), but immediately with 3-D image construction because a canopy is surrounded with air, the challenge coming from the separation of leaves and branches.
Several of the recent applications of CT scanning in plant science remain descriptive. Some applications include a quantification of the plant material, when the branch-leaf separation or root-soil isolation is optimized and judged acceptable. A few applications addressed and responded to questions of modeling and the assessment of effects of a treatment, the experimental conditions or a disease on the structure and its development during plant growth. In 2003-2009, 6+ studies showed that the same plant can be submitted to CT scanning more than once when a medical instead of industrial scanner is used (for questions of X-ray amount), without apparently affecting its growth relative to a control plant.
Therefore, this Research Topic is proposed to meet the following specific objectives, besides the general objectives of all Frontiers in Plant Science Research Topics:
. Updating knowledge about the application of CT scanning technology to plants above and below ground level, in terms of the nature of CT scan data (CT images vs. CT numbers) and their preliminary processing in the graphical and numerical approaches; very technical details are not part of this objective.
. Drawing the limits of the CT scanning approach, which is based on material density; materials with contrasting/moderately overlapping densities (e.g. branches vs. leaves, roots vs. non-organic soils) can be distinguished, but not materials with insufficiently contrasting densities (e.g. roots vs. organic soils).
. Explaining the procedures available for graphical, quantitative and statistical analyses of plant CT scan data, by presenting relevant examples with a complete description of the experiments (including research hypotheses and the new insight to be gained on natural phenomena and processes such as light interception by canopies, thigmotropism in root development and stress effects on plant growth).
. Comparing CT scanning with alternative technologies applied to plants, such as phenomics stations that target leaf canopies specifically.
. Provide current and potential users with the state-of-the-art in ‘Plant CT Scanning’ (including next goals and perspectives in near future), for them to be even more efficient in their research work or most efficient from start.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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