Plant Productivity Monitoring
An automated System and Special Software for Monitoring Productivity of Higher Plants, and the Information Technologies for Ecology and Agriculture, on the Basis of this Technique
Tech Area / Field
- INF-SIG/Sensors and Signal Processing/Information and Communications
- INS-MEA/Measuring Instruments/Instrumentation
3 Approved without Funding
Belarussian State University, Belarus, Minsk
- Belarussian State University / Institute of Applied Physical Problems, Belarus, Minsk
- Università degli Studi di Firenze / Polo Scientifico e Tecnologico, Italy, Sesto Fiorentino\nEtogen Scientific, Inc., USA, CA, San Diego\nFriedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn / Institut fuer Zellulare & Molekulare Botanik, Germany, Bonn
Project summaryThe Project aim. A novel equipment and software for fast non-invasive and integral measurement of plant growth and productivity, development on the basis of this technique the technologies which can be widely used in ecology, plant biology and agriculture will be developed.
Current status. Implementing a shift towards sustainable food production in the face of a potential global food crisis is one of the most important challenges currently facing humanity. The problem of food security in Belarus and Eastern Europe, demands creation cheap and easy-to-use tools for the analysis of both the plant phenotype dynamics (plant growth) and stress resistance of potential crop varieties to environmental factors. This is required for the development of sustainable and innovative agriculture as well as modern plant breeding techniques. Developing, integrating and providing novel technologies to analyse plant phenome (“plant phenomics”) is a new, growing field of interest in plant biology and crop production (www.plantphenomics.com). Yet, ecological problems that affect flora require reliable techniques for assessment of the effect of environmental pollutants on the plant growth. The systems for measuring plant growth are mainly based on invasive techniques or involve indirect approaches, such as examination of the photosynthetic activity, CO2 and O2 levels (http://phyto-sensor.com/SA-20M.ru; Shevelukha V.S. 1992. Plant growth and its regulation in ontogenesis. M. Kolos, 49-51; Laser interference auxanometer LINA-EM3D; PlantVital® 5000 www.inno-concept.de). Even in the advanced plant phenomics systems, such as LemnaTec (LemnaTec, Germany), plants are significantly disturbed because they need to be moved and scanned by laser. Classical auxanometer (an instrument to measure the plant growth) is less invasive; however this technique does not provide any information about lateral plant growth (Gallagher et al. 1976 J Exp Bot 27: 704-716).
The project’ influence on progress in this area. The system to be developed in this project will be the unique device with no analogs currently available on the worldwide market combining low cost, high sensitivity and non-invasiveness. This system can be used in a number of applications, where phenomics analyses are essential, such as biofuel industry and agriculture (testing new crop varieties, their productivity and stress resistance), fundamental plant biology (study of mechanisms of plant growth and development) and ecology (bio-tests on the basis of plant growth reaction to pollutants and environmental challenges). Moreover, there is a high demand in schools and universities for cheap “student-friendly” equipment for testing plant growth. A number of ecological, sustainability and cell biology themes in secondary and high education courses can be addressed experimentally by performing a plant growth test. This has a great potential to improve quality of education in life sciences. Overall, this project will be very beneficial to the society.
The participants’ expertise. The applicants from BSU have international reputation in plant biology. They have recent publications in high impact factor journals (Nature, Annual Reviews of Plant Biology, Plant Cell and others). Every five years, BSU runs International Symposium “Xenobiotics and Living Systems” (1998, 2003 and 2008). The applicants from BSU have successful experience in the development of the automated system Biotest M1 for ecological monitoring of the water pollution, based on the physiological response of algae cells (patents N 123156711, Belarus).
The applicants from RI APP are experts in special instrumentation area and have long-term experience in the field of development of weapon. They have patented approximately 20 inventions and published more than 100 papers in this area.
Expected results and their application. The maim results of the project according to 5 tasks will be as follows:
- the functional model of system for measurement of plant growth will be developed, assembled and tested;
- technical documentation and software will be developed, the prototype of the system will be assembled and examined;
- technologies for plant growth measurements will be elaborated and adjusted for testing of the most important crops and some wild plant species;
- effects of major biotic and abiotic stresses (temperature, drought and pathogens) on the growth of most important crop plants and some wild plant species will be measured and analysed;
- effects of widely used pesticides, natural and synthetic growth regulators and inducers of stress resistance on plant growth will be established.
The end-result will be the creation and testing of the system for plant growth measurements and phenomics analyses, which will include automated complex of equipment and software and all necessary technical documentation and developed technologies. This system will be ready for industrial production and can be used for agriculture, ecology and fundamental plant biology. The results will build the basis for recommendations for the use of the system in different applications thereof.
The equipment developed in the project will also be used for teaching of plant biology, ecology and crop sciences.
Fields of application:
- biological and ecological monitoring of environmental pollution based on the plant growth reaction;
- fundamental research into the mechanisms of plant growth and development;
- analysis of possible effects of new pesticides and plant growth regulators on agricultural plants and wild flora; optimisation of the use of these substances in agriculture;
- breeding of new crops, development of assessment criteria for crop productivity tests, development of ripening technologies, improvement of crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses;
- accurate assessment of the fertility and pollution of the soil, using the plant growth performance as an indicator;
- biological, ecological, biotechnological, sustainability, engineering and agricultural education;
- development of new technologies for plant phenome analyses.
Meeting the ISTC goals and objectives. This project falls within the prime criteria of the ISTC mission and major objectives because the proposed components of research will do the following:
- re-direct the activities and talent of applicants – former weapon scientists and engineers – to peaceful activities. The project is aimed at the application of former military technologies to food and biofuel production, biology, education, ecology and sustainable technologies, which will be beneficial for the society.
- contribute to solving national and global technological problems through the development of new technology for measurement of plant growth and productivity, which is required for applied and fundamental plant phenomics, crop sciences, agriculture, biofuel industry and others.
- encourage integration of military scientists into the international scientific community. During the project, military scientists will have an opportunity to work together with world class researchers. Collaboration with leading German, American and Italian laboratories working on the forefront of crop biology, molecular plant physiology and new environmental technologies will help to this integration.
- additional benefits will be brought through the team members participation in international conferences and workshops, where military scientists will have an opportunity to present their results to a wide scientific community, exchange ideas and receive advice from experts in the field.
- support transition to market-based economy by commercialisation of the system that will be developed during the project.
Scope of activities. Duration of the project: 30 months; the total number of man-days: 3650, including 2050 man-days for weapon scientists. The project includes the following tasks:
- development of the fully functional model of the complex for measurement of plant growth;
- assembling and testing the prototype;
- development of growth measurement technology on the basis of the data obtained for crops and wild plant species;
- study of the effect of key stresses on growth of different crops and wild plant species;
- assessment of the impact of pesticides and growth regulators on crop growth.
Both BSU and RI APP will be involved in all these tasks; however, RI APP will play the major role in the tasks 1 - 2, while BSU in the tasks 3 - 5.
Role of Foreign Collaborators. International collaborators will include experts in plant biology, crop physiology, plant biotechnology and environmental sciences having successful experience in the development of technologies and equipment for the life sciences and agriculture. They will be involved in the following activities:
- testing of the physical method for measurement of plant growth analysis using model system;
- guidance in the development of crop growth tests;
- examination of the developed prototype;
- intellectual exchange and discussion of data;
- joint workshops, seminars and participation in international conferences.
Technical approach and methodology. The idea that will be developed in the project emerges from the previous finding (by RI APP applicants) of strong correlation between plant growth and changes in its electrical capacitance. Novel highly sensitive electrical capacitance probes allowing to detect the capacitance changes with required accuracy need to be developed. The electrical capacitance changes should be measured with minimal disturbance to plants. During the project, the physical parameters and sensitivity of capacitance probes will be adjusted to measure the growth in different plant species and different conditions. This technique has recently been patented by RI APP applicants (Patent N 11515; Belarus, 2008). The pilot set-up has been presented in exhibition in China “New Technologies for Agriculture” (Shanghai, May 2008). The system will be automated and its electronic circuitry will be controlled by PC. important part of the project will be elaboration of technologies for the measurement of the growth rate of major crop species and some wild plants. This will require a technical design and software adjustments based on the feedback from plant tests. The most important agricultural plants for Belarus, such as potato, rye, clover, maize, wheat, sugar beet, cabbage and carrot as well as several important wild plant species, will be examined under different conditions. Special software with user friendly desktop will be developed to control parameters of measurements, analyse results and store the collected data. This software will also include the dynamic database for storage, comparison and further analysis of the growth data obtained for different crop varieties and species. The changes in the device design and software will be made by RI APP applicants on the basis of the feedback from BSU team. Important features of the proposed system will be low cost, high sensitivity and "ease-to-use".