Innovation MeetUp Root Zone Breeding

Dinsdag 19 mei 12:00-15:30 CEST

Plant breeding is usually focused on the aboveground parts of the crop. Yet belowground parts of the crop that are usually not visible are involved in vital processes of the plant, such as acquisition of nutrients and water and defence against soilborne pathogens. In the mission-driven research agenda of the Topsectors and the government, circular agriculture has become a central notion, implying among others high nutrient effiency, low emissions of pollutants, and climate resilience. Breeding such resilient crops requires a better understanding of the belowground parts of the crop.

In order to provide you with fresh inspiration on this topic, as well as networking opportunities with colleagues from academia and industry, we are convening a Live Online Event on Tuesday, May 19th from 12:00-15:30h CEST.

During the event Prof. Malcolm Bennett of the University of Nottingham will present a keynote lecture titled ‘Uncovering the hidden half of plants using new advances in root phenotyping’. Prof. Bennett is not only a well-known authority on the (molecular) biology of root development; he is also leading efforts to non-invasively image root responses using advanced phenotyping methods.

The second lecture, titled ‘Underground plant traits: many mysteries to be solved’, will be presented by dr Eric Visser (Radboud University Nijmegen). Dr Visser is associate professor of Experimental Plant Ecology and is intrigued by plant roots, particularly the interplay between a root system and its environment and the plasticity with which plant roots can respond to changes in the environment.

Apart from these lectures we provide you with innovative networking opportunities with colleagues from academia and industry. You will have lunch with ca. 10 other participants with whom you will take part in an online video conference guided by an online table host. We will organise an online networking session during which you can chat or set up a video meeting with anyone else present. The whole event will be lead by professional host Gerrit Heijkoop. In other words, we are aiming to provide the same or maybe even better networking experience than you were used to from us. (The only downside could be that you need to bring your own sandwiches and drinks – but then you are not stuck in traffic jams either).



9th International Symposium on Root Development


  • Prof. Malcolm Bennett - Nottingham University
  • Dr Eric Visser - Radboud University Nijmegen

Sponsored by


The hidden half of plant biology has been an enduring interest throughout Malcolm Bennett's research career. Over the last several decades his team has characterised many of the regulatory signals, genes and mechanisms that control root growth and development. Highlights include identifying the first auxin transport protein described in plants termed AUX1 which controls root gravitropism (Bennett et al, 1996, Science); and elucidating how plant roots respond to gradients of water availability termed hydrotropism (Dietrich et al, 2017, Nature Plants).

Over the last decade, Malcolm has embraced a systems biology approach to study root development, helping establish the BBSRC/EPSRC Centre for Plant Integrative Biology (CPIB) at Nottingham University. Highlights include elucidating how hormones like auxin control root growth and branching (Band et al, 2012, PNAS; Swarup et al, 2008, Nature Cell Biology). Recognising the importance of studying root responses in their natural soil environment, Malcolm has recently led efforts at CPIB to non-invasively image root responses using X-ray based microCT (Morris et al, 2017, Current Biology). A BBSRC Professorial Research Fellowship (2010) and ERC Advanced Investigator (2012) awards have enabled Malcolm and colleagues to build a multidisciplinary research team and a unique research platform termed the Hounsfield Facility to achieve this goal. Highlights include discovering a novel root adaptive response in soil termed hydropatterning, where roots only branch when in contact with water (Bao et al, 2014, PNAS).

Malcolm has published over 180 research papers and review articles about root growth and development and is ranked in the top 1% most highly cited animal and plant biologists (Thomson Reuters). His research activities have attracted several awards including a Royal Society Wolfson Research Fellowship (2013) and election as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO; 2014). He is also co-chair of the Working Group on Root Phenotyping of the International Plant Phenotyping Network.


Eric Visser is Associate Professor of Experimental Plant Ecology at Radboud University Nijmegen. His primary interest is to unravel functioning at the plant individual level, and to translate this functioning to how an individual performs in its environment. This can refer to the abiotic environment, and the combined stresses and limitations in resources that may negatively affect growth and performance, or to the biotic environment, including interactions with individuals of the same or other plant species.

Dr Visser is most intrigued by plant roots. Root systems of plants are highly plastic in their morphological, anatomical and metabolical characteristics. Because of this plasticity, they can rapidly respond to changes in their environment, resulting in optimised water and nutrient uptake and anchoring of the plant. The interplay between a root system and its environment is therefore of crucial importance for the performance of a plant in its natural habitat, or in a cropping system. Currently, much of his work aims at the external triggers and internal mechanisms (e.g. on the hormonal level) that control the anatomy, morphology and architecture of a root system. Dr Visser is particularly interested in knowing how these characteristics optimise the functioning of the root, and how they affect the performance of the plant.