WinRHIZO software for evaluating effects of farming systems on sugarcane root systems : ASSCT peer-reviewed paper
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Sugarcane roots are notoriously difficult to study. The opaque nature of the soil matrix, large biomass, and ratooning habit of the crop make studying roots challenging. WinRHIZO is a specialist root analysis software that provides rapid and accurate measurement of a host of root characteristics in a fraction of the time that it would take by traditional methods. This paper demonstrates the use of WinRHIZO to evaluate root systems under different farming systems management. A paired site was identified in the Herbert district consisting of two commercial sugarcane blocks. One was conventionally managed while the other was under an improved farming system. Importantly, both blocks had been farmed this way for more than 14 years. WinRHIZO analysis found root systems in the fields managed under improved farming systems showed significant improvement in total root length, proportion of fine root hairs, root biomass, and many other root properties. This technology has wide ranging applicability as a tool for measuring the impact of farming decisions on root health.