rhizobox systems

rhizoboxes for root and rhizosphere studies


rhizobox / rhizonboxes / root box systems are used to
  1. separate rhizosphere soil from bulk soil,
  2. are a feasible way to study different aspects of soil - soil pore water - root interactions,
  3. to measure root growth, turnover and depth distribution and iv) to sample defined root types (e.g. age classes, orders) or soil areas (rhizosphere/bulk soil). The integration of RRPs' (Micro-)Rhizons and Rhizon Irrigators into our established Rhizobox systems ("Rhizonboxes") creates advanced opportunities for soil water sampling and manipulation.

Roots on rhizo(n)box images can be analysed with free or commercial software programs (see bottom of page), however, rhizo(n)boxes are also an educative way to illustrate both root and shoot growth to younger students ("root viewer").

software to analyse roots in rhizoboxes (examples)
  • DIRT (for registered iPlant collaborators)
  • Root Trace (freeware)
  • RootNav (Open Source)
  • SmartRoot (freeware)
  • RhizoChamberMonitor (freeware)
  • WinRhizo Tron, Regent Systems, Canada (commercial)

Please check the great Plant Image Analysis Webpage (carefully collected by Guillaume Lobet and colleagues) for further software packages allowing root analysis.

[Edaphic Scientific is not responsible for the content of external links]




Different designs and sizes are available to study roots and the rhizosphere. Rhizoboxes are also known as Root Boxes, Rhizotrons or RhizonBoxes.

The Rhizobox design offers the flexibility to manufacture long-lasting root boxes according to your specific needs. For example, splitting the root compartment of rhizoboxes is a cost-effective way to double the number of replicates, since only negligible additional labour during set-up and no additional space is needed. Assembling the compartments with corrosion-resistant screws (back and front plate detachable) facilitates the filling procedure and prolongs the usability. The flat surfaces allow for space optimised placement (e.g. important in growth chambers) and easy picture acquisition by flatbed scanners. Angled racks (40°), holding five rhizoboxes each are available. See Rhizonboxes if soil pore water sampling is part of your research project.

please consider for your rhizobox design ...
  • Inner/outer dimensions (w x h x d) (according to species (size, growth rate) and experimental period
  • Material of front and back plates (transparent, opaque, etc.)
  • Detachability of front and back plates (lowered hex screws for easier scanning? wing nuts for easy hand operation during regular sampling?)
  • Split rhizobox design, with separating strip, to monitor two plant individuals per rhizobox?
  • Backplate perforation for soil pore water sampling with MicroRhizons ("Rhizonbox") and holes for insertion of Rhizon samplers from the side?
  • Bottom perforation, allowing for drainage?
  • Rack system to place rhizoboxes? Angled (how much?)?
  • Do you need to darken the transparent plate(s)?


rhizonboxes for soil water sampling

In cooperation with Rhizosphere Research Products (Wageningen, The Netherlands) we increase the versatility of rhizoboxes by turning them into optional "RhizonBoxes" - which allow in additions to use 1) MicroRhizons for pore water sampling, 2) Rhizons for local soil water manipulation (e.g. salt or heavy metal infiltration) and sampling, and 3) Rhizon Irrigators for passive irrigation.

The key difference to our classical rhizoboxes is the 5 mm x 5 mm grid of 1.5 mm-diameter holes at the back plate, allowing to insert MicroRhizons at the positions of choice (e.g. next to specific root segments (e.g. tips), or in bulk soil) to extract soil pore water. Before insertion of MicroRhizons, all holes are closed by a replaceable foil on the inside - avoiding side effects such as increased gas exchange - and allowing to use "RhizonBoxes" like "standard" rhizoboxes if needed. In addition, Rhizons with silicone sleeves (sealing the opening) can be inserted from openings at one or two side(s) of the RhizonBoxes (e.g. at 5, 10 and 15 cm from the bottom in A4-sized boxes) to sample percolating soil solutions or to enter specific solutions at different depth of the chamber. As with our classical Rhizoboxes, the "Rhizonboxes" are fully customizable (please use the configuration form below to request a quote). However, you may ask for cost-effective standard sizes at reduced prices.

rhizonboxes - example set-up

Schematic of a exemplary Rhizo(n)box set-up (Liu et al. (2016), Crop and Pasture Science)

Schematic of an example rhizo(n)box experiment using MicroRhizons for soil water extraction and Rhizon Irrigators for passive irrigation.

For example, Liu et al. (2006) placed MicroRhizons in the soil through holes in the Rhizo(n)box walls. Each MicroRhizon was connected to a discrete sample vial contained in a PVC vacuum box. Nutrient solutions were fed by gravity into the rhizobox soil from a raised reservoir connected to the Rhizon Irrigators.

rhizon types to be used with rhizonboxes

Three types of Rhizons, all with various customisation options, are commonly used with RhizonBoxes

  1. MicroRhizon,
  2. Rhizon,
  3. Rhizon Irrigator.



passive rhizon irrigators

RRP Rhizon Irrigators (by Rhizophere Research Products) are the perfect match to rhizoboxes /  RhizonBoxes by allowing to apply of water or nutrient solutions where and when it matters! The placement of Irrigators at different depths allows either for a most homogeneous water supply throughout your box but also to mimic droughts and the inherent depletion of soil moisture from the top down more realistically, e.g. shifting water supply gradually to Rhizon Irrigators placed deeper in your rhizoboxes.

Passive irrigation can be reached if storage containers (with water or other solutions) are placed at the same height as the boxes. By changing the difference in height level between the storage container and the experimental root box, you can influence the suction. For example, when the transparent male luer of the Rhizon Irrigator is connected to a water container and the water level is under the level of the Rhizon Irrigator in the experimental pot, this means there is suction - allowing to implement of a plethora of soil water conditions. As soil properties and plants' water uptake vary considerable, a pre-test is recommended to establish specific soil moisture levels.

Instead of applying irrigation only, also experiments with fertiliser or polluted solutions can be conducted - e.g. simulating the accumulation of excess concentrations of salt as occurring frequently under suboptimal irrigation.

To allow for a one-stop solution, all RRP products can be ordered at Edaphic Scientific when ordering Rhizo- or RhizonBoxes. Add Rhizon Irrigators to your next Rhizobox / RhizonBox order!

rhizon irrigators - technical specifications

All Rhizon Irrigators (RRP # 19.21.71) have a porous part (15 cm) with a diameter of 2.5 mm. At one end of the porous part there is a 100 cm tube with a male luer lock, at the other end a 60 cm tube with a female luer lock and stop cock. The porous part is reinforced with nylon wire. Store in a dry, normally ventilated place, away from sources of heat, ignition and direct sunlight. Store between 0 and 50°C - the membrane modules should not be subjected to freezing. All Rhizon Irrigators are sold per set of 10..

rhizon irrigators - installation
  1. During soil filling, place the porous part of the Rhizon Irrigator in the Rhizobox / Rhizonbox at a selected position
  2. Channel the tubes up to the soil surface at respective sides inside or use the exit holes at the sides (if available)
  3. Make sure to achieve good contact between soil and the porous part of the Rhizon Irrigator
  4. Connect the male luer lock to a reservoir with water / nutrient solution / etc.
  5. Connect a (relaxed) syringe to the stopcock (at the female luer lock), open the stopcock and pull the plunger of the syringe
  6. Close the stopcock when water/solution enters the syringe. Make sure there are no air bubbles left in the tubing of the Rhizon Irrigator!
  7. Remove the syringe
  8. Adjust the reservoirs' water level at approx. the same height as the porous part (of the Rhizon Irrigator) for passive irrigation - solution will flow into the soil as it gets dry. Change the height of the reservoir (or its water level) to modify the rate of soil rewetting
  9. IMPORTANT! The top end (blue female luer + stopcock) of the Rhizon Irrigator has to be flushed regularly (steps 5 to 7) to remove air bubbles - which occur due to the subatmospheric pressure in the system. The air bubbles are easily noticed in the "highest" part of the tubing!

Please contact us if you are interested in an automatic flushing system using many Rhizon Irrigators in large experimental rhizo(n)box settings. 


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