Special notion on ISRR newsletter

Root biology never sleeps

Symposium meeting report summary, submitted for review to New Phytologist as Carley et al. (author list see below).

 ISRR11 and Rooting2021: a joint, virtual meeting

In response to the challenging global restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 11th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research (ISRR11) https://www.rootresearch.org/ and the 9th International Symposium on Root Development (Rooting2021) merged into a single online event co-organized by the Interdisciplinary Plant Group at the University of Missouri (Columbia, USA) and the University of Nottingham (UK) (https://bit.ly/32bNZ17). Over 700 participants representing academia, government and industry from +53 countries joined the virtual event held May 24th-28th 2021. The schedule ran almost uninterrupted across international time zones, featuring 74 talks (10 plenaries, 16 keynotes, and 48 invited) and approximately 300 posters, and spanned a broad range of disciplines. In addition, the 2021 ISRR Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Wendy Silk, Emeritus Professor at the University of California-Davis, who gave a lecture on her research career. The ISRR11/Rooting2021 meeting covered recent advances of root research from molecular to ecosystem-level scales in agricultural and natural systems, hosted technical presentations, posters and industry exhibits, and presented a root phenotyping workshop.

The Ambassador program

ISRR11/Rooting2021 hosted the 3rd Ambassador Program (Box 1), a unique platform for early-career root researchers created by John Kirkegaard and Hayley at the ISRR9 Meeting held in 2015 in Australia. The Ambassador program provided networking activities, training on the organization of scientific events, interaction with professionals in diverse career areas, and opportunities to discuss advances in the field. As it gains momentum, the field of root research brings together an increasingly broad range of disciplines. This was well-reflected in the enthusiasm and cooperation between the multidisciplinary Ambassador cohort. Ambassador tasks included organized note-taking across time zones and the production of this meeting report. Other valuable contributions were a set of recommendations for diversity and inclusion in future scientific events (Box 2), and a root phenotyping survey that showcased both the present importance and the promising future of the field (Box 3). Additionally, the Ambassadors discussed positive aspects of the virtual format for accessibility, i.e. ability for participants with economic or family constraints to attend and provision of live captions to facilitate communication.

Concluding remarks and perspectives

To meet the challenges imposed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, online communication has provided new opportunities for international multidisciplinary cooperation. The demand for, and rapid development of, resources and platforms to support this has prompted the scientific community to adopt new channels of work. For root researchers, the ISRR11/Rooting2021 online event was crucial to share knowledge on the latest developments in root and rhizosphere research, to present new technological advances and to identify pressing research questions that still need to be answered. Through this report, we would like to highlight the need to advance our knowledge of rhizosphere processes. Root researchers aim to provide answers to the many challenges facing agriculture, beyond the well-studied supply of macronutrients and water. In addition, root research can offer unique perspectives in response to global climate change, including strategies to reduce greenhouse gases. Accordingly, the growing interest in root phenotyping to identify optimal root traits in particular environments and how these traits relate to ecological functions has been highlighted throughout the root phenotyping section as well as by the results of our root phenotyping survey. Moreover, we highlight the need to explore multiple root phenotypes that may work synergistically rather than independently. The adoption of a holistic approach to root research, i.e. one that takes into account all categories of root traits, from anatomy to root morphology, physiology and architecture, as well as interactions with the rhizosphere microbiota, could be the seed for a new green revolution. For this purpose, root research requires the development of standardized, affordable and high-resolution methods that would allow researchers to non-destructively monitor root system traits and rhizosphere processes. We encourage root researchers to actively take advantage of the plethora of online resources currently available for plant phenotyping (https://quantitative-plant.org/), and to join the International Society of Root Research (https://www.rootresearch.org/) to keep root biology alive. We believe that developing collaborations to share knowledge and existing phenotyping platforms or to develop new technological advances will help us answer complex and pressing research questions to further our understanding of roots and rhizosphere processes.

Author list: Clayton Carley, Guanying Chen, Krishna K. Das, Benjamin M. Delory, Anastazija Dimitrova, Yiyang Ding, Abin P George, Laura A. Greeley, Qingqing Han, Pieter-Willem Hendriks, Maria C. Hernandez-Soriano, Meng Li, Jason Liang Pin Ng, Lisa Mau, Jennifer Mesa-Marín, Allison Miller, Angus Rae, Jennifer Schmidt, August Thies, Christopher N. Topp, Tomke S. Wacker, Pinhui Wang, Xinyu Wang, Limeng Xie, Congcong Zheng