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Agricultural research using X-ray microscopy

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When scientists look over a rice field, they do see the beauty of the blossoms, but they also see an exciting area to explore beyond what the eye can see. Besides beautiful scenery, what is rice in the eyes of scientists? How do they carry out their research?

In fact, scientific work in the field is only a small part of the research as a large amount of research work is carried out in the laboratory. In order to identify the structural differences between rice varieties and different parts, microscopic observation is necessary. A traditional research method is to cut physical slices of rice seeds, stems, roots and so on, and then observe them one by one under the light microscope.

Rice research with X-ray microscopy
A schematic map of different positions of rice

Non-destructive imaging with X-ray microscopy

Now, ZEISS X-ray microscopy enables researchers to observe the inner structure with a 3D non-destructive method, which provides a new tool for rice and other agriculture research. In order to develop the application of X-ray microscopy with rice, the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, SIBS, CAS and ZEISS cooperated on the imaging study of rice samples. We have succeeded in imaging all parts of rice, including roots, leaves and flowers etc.

Researchers can inspect the dataset slice by slice. The development of rice flower organs will affect the yield of rice.

imaging result of rice flower
The image on the left is a cross section virtual slice of the flower. The image on the right is a 3D rendering result which shows the stamens, pistil and ovary.


In addition to the overall structure of the seed, scientists are more concerned about the high-resolution imaging results of the glume shell. Glume is very important for rice research because it can be used to evaluate the quality of rice varieties by studying the thickness of the glume, cell arrangement, and vascular growth.

Glume of rice seeds
Transverse and longitudinal sections of the 0.7um/voxel resolution scan obtained by magnifying the glume of rice seeds locally.

By comparison, the number of stem bundles, stem wall thickness, and cell uniformity of two varieties of rice stems were different. Similarly, scientists can study and evaluate the performance of different rice varieties based on these differences.

Cross section of rice stem
Transverse of the 0.7um/voxel resolution by two different rice stems.

In addition, XRM imaging results of rice roots, leaves, and tillers also achieved very good results. The traditional method of studying the microstructure of rice is to observe physical slices by light microscopy. By physical slicing, which has the disadvantages of complex sample preparation and destroying samples, but more importantly, only one angle of 2D image is observed, which cannot fully describe the microstructure of the sample. The sample preparation method is very simple using a X-ray microscope for imaging.

More than thousands of virtual slices can be obtained from a fresh sample of rice and it makes the first time researchers are able to observe the microstructures inside the sample from different angles even more amazing.

More information on ZEISS X-ray microscopy

Tags: X-ray Microscopy

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