RooPheLeg - Exploiting root phenotyping to select drought tolerant legumes

Current projections point to an increase of average air temperature, CO2 concentrations and changes in precipitation as a consequence of climate change. The high temperatures will affect the net photosynthesis rate, nutrient absorption and, consequently plant growth and productivity. Drought is one of the most important abiotic stresses that negatively affect the plant’s production. Different mechanisms have been developed by plants to adapt and survive to drought periods and the most studies are focused on the aerial part of plant. Root system architecture (RSA) is an underexplored trait probably due the dense nature of soils makes phenotyping roots in situ challenging compared to aerial part of plant. RSA has been reported as an important trait to better understand the crops ecophysiology and abiotic stress tolerance. Implementation of novel approaches using new technologies such as image acquisition and analysis will be an excellent tool to provide valuable data for the identification of promising germplasm based on RSA traits, targeted to increase production and at the same time mitigating the climate change.

Apart from facing the climate change, there is a challenge to improve the agricultural production to meet the increasing demand of food products due to a population growth estimated in 50% until 2050. Legume crops will be extremely relevant to support the healthy food demand scenario due its high protein content and the positive socio-economic impact. Nowadays, Europe is facing a deficit of about 70% of grain legumes being important foster their production and consumption. Outcomes achieved in the EUROLEGUME project, highlight cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) as a short warm-season promising multipurpose crop, since it can be consumed for its leaves, green pods, immature and dry beans. Cowpea is also considered one of the most legume crops adapt to high temperatures and drought having potential to be used as model to drought stress studies. Recently, it has been verified that under drought stress cowpea plants increase the root development and reduce shoot biomass[16].

The major aim of this exploratory project is to propose simples and cost-effective root phenotyping methodologies to identify genotypes resilient to drought stress using cowpea as a model crop.

Project Details





Start date

March 2023


18 months

Funding Entity


Total Financing


CITAB/UTAD Financing


Responsible institution