A behavioural assay of root foraging in flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Root foraging, or where plants place their roots in response to nutrient changes and neighbour presence has been studied in various plant species in the past. These studies into root foraging in plants that utilize behavioural ecological theory give us a greater insight into plants’ inner workings and the assumptions of classic ecological theory. However, an exploration of root behaviour in Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is lacking. Flax provides an excellent study species for future genetic-based plant behaviour studies. It is well-known genetically, consisting of a fully transcribed genome and many common and available genotypes for experimentation. I aim to begin quantifying the baseline root foraging behaviour in flax by performing behavioural assays of the behaviour in response to nutrient heterogeneity on an array of available genotypes. This will involve measurements of root placement within each plant’s pot in response to a nutrient patch while nutrient levels stay the same. While no specific differences or similarities between genotypes are to be expected, as this is the first study into Flax root foraging, it is expected that roots will aggregate within the patch when it is present. These studies will act as a crucial step in expanding root foraging studies to new species, especially those that could be used in future genetic-based experiments into the mechanisms of plant behaviour.