Root printing

Download PDF here

Plants produce a number of exudates below the soil, some are for defense and others to encourage a diversity of organisms around their roots. A number of these organisms help to produce the nutrients the plants need via the n and c-cycles.

The tips of the roots produce the most sugars so you tend to see a higher and more diverse community of organisms. These bacterial communities fluctuate along the length of the root as each area provides a different niche.

Specific learning outcomes

  • Understanding of ecological niches in plants below ground
  • Understanding of symbiotic relationships

Equipment for a group of 5

  • Roots
  • Kettle
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Petri dish with nutrient agar
  • Marker pen
  • Baking paper


Estimated time 50 minutes.

  • Petri dishes, in not bought pre-made 30 mins
  • Root material from various sites


Introduction 2 minutes, can look at images of some of the organisms associated with root communities.

Extract a number of plant roots, 10 minutes.

Prepare roots, 5 minutes.

Apply root to agar, 5 minutes.

Label and place in a dark, warm location.

Total timing 15-20 minutes.

Cultivation will be ~5-7 days.

Background learning needs

  • Understanding of symbiotic relationship types.


  1. Extract a number of plant roots, cleaning off the soil gently so as not to loose the tips and delicate filaments
  2. Use the brush, sterilized by holding it over steam of the kettle, to brush off the remaining soil
  3. Cut a circle of baking paper and again hold this over the steam to clean it
  4. Place the root on to the agar and use the baking paper to press all the roots on to the agar
  5. Label and place in a dark, warm location.