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Main research question/goal

Forage legumes are often grown in mixtures with forage grasses, where they combine high forage yields with high protein contents, while reducing the need for nitrogen (N) fertilization. Quick establishment of forage legumes is critical to the ensure good performance of grassland mixtures. Root traits are obviously important for seedling establishment and competition for N, but up to now, efforts of root phenotyping have been limited for forage legumes. In this project, we examine various root traits during the establishment phase of forage legumes, including C partitioning between shoots and roots, root architecture and nodule development for N fixation.

Research approach

We focus on two major forage legumes: red clover and alfalfa. Five varieties from each crop will be evaluated. From each variety, 19 seedlings will be phenotyped for root architecture (root elongation potential, branching capacity, shoot-root allocation) under high and low N conditions using the 4PMI phenotyping facility at INRA Dijon (FR). Rhizotubes technology coupled with the image acquisition systems (RGB images) makes it possible to obtain regular high resolution images (42 microns) from shoots and root systems. The innovative nature of the project will be to assess the within- and among-variety variability of root trait responses to N in the two tested crops.


This project is particularly helpful for future research programs dedicated to breeding of alfalfa and red clover and in the design of new mixtures adapted to future growing conditions. A deeper understanding of the relative competitive ability of forage Legumes is needed for multi-species mixtures. By fueling mechanistic models with realistic data, the results could also help to make the link with renewed ideotypes for forage mixtures. We foresee at least two scientific papers to be published related to the variation in root traits and N responses in the two crops.

Effective start/end date1/09/2031/08/21

ID: 17479562