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Photo imaging system drives innovation in crop stress detection

Examples of images acquired by imaging system (c) James Hutton Institute
"Infra-red thermography can measure leaf temperature, which is related to stomatal opening and is a reliable indicator of plant physiological status.

A research consortium including the James Hutton Institute and AHDB Horticulture is developing a cutting-edge new technology system which can remotely monitor soft fruit crops for stresses. The InnovateUK-funded research aims to produce an automated imaging system able to monitor and measure how plants respond to stresses such as drought or attacks by pests or diseases.

Once fully developed, it is hoped the system will not only enable growers to keep a constant remote monitor for signs of stress on crop areas or individual plants but could even control fertigation or alert growers to when crop protection is needed.

Explaining the genetic role in plant stress management, and the role imaging systems can play in this, Dr Julie Graham, geneticist and project lead at the James Hutton Institute, said: “Plants adjust stomatal opening to maintain water balance and nutrient uptake, control leaf temperature and optimise photosynthesis – and the better they’re able to make that adjustment, the more likely they’ll be able to tolerate stress.

“The effects can be monitored and measured using imaging technologies, for example, infra-red thermography can measure leaf temperature, which is related to stomatal opening and is a reliable indicator of plant physiological status.”

Other environmental stresses can induce a range of changes in the leaf surface and internal structure, cause certain compounds to accumulate or lead to the breakdown of photosynthetic pigments.

Some of these changes can alter the colour of the leaf, imperceptible to the human eye but detectable by an imaging technique known as spectral reflectance, which can be used to monitor the plant canopy to acquire information on alterations in the leaf biochemistry. These ‘spectral signatures’ can be analysed by computer and compared with a ‘library’ of signatures expected from an unstressed plant or one exposed to known stresses.

Scott Raffle, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB Horticulture said: “This project is particularly exciting, as through the use of technology such as infra-red thermography and spectral reflectance imaging, we expect to be able to monitor changes in shoot and leaf physiology, to give an indirect indicator of root stresses.

“Poor soil conditions, variable availability of water and attack by root rot pathogens or root-feeding pests such as vine weevil larvae, can all stress the roots of crops such as raspberry. We hope, in the future, this system will provide growers with the technology to respond to these challenges more efficiently than by manually walking their growing areas to monitor plant stresses.”

The system has primarily been conceived as a tool to help soft fruit breeders select plants resistant to stresses such as drought or attacks by pests or diseases. The equipment will provide a means of not only assessing the stress responses of large numbers of breeding lines very quickly, it will also give some objective measure of their stress resistance.

Read the AHDB Horticulture press release for more information.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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Printed from /news/photo-imaging-system-drives-innovation-crop-stress-detection on 18/07/19 04:14:41 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.