“Glowing” Plants: Scouting Tool of the Future?

Since the beginning of agriculture farmers relied on their intuition and observation in assessing crop and field conditions to gain successful yields. Development of computer systems and internet pioneered introduction of new devices and sensors allowing better monitoring of plant and field conditions, leading to optimization of agricultural practices and production. Yet, existing monitoring systems and methods are still cumbersome, imprecise and require expensive equipment. More importantly, today’s monitoring methods typically measure indirect parameters, which are not necessarily well-correlated with the actual plant’s conditions, and many cannot be done in real time providing rather general seasonal guidelines.

A new technology of autoluminescent phytosensor plants (ALPS) opens radically new approach to agricultural monitoring. ALPS are plants capable to emit light in response to specific stress. Elements responsive to a particular type of stress – for example pest infestation – are engineered within plant’s DNA and stay silent until stress condition takes place. When stress response is triggered, ALPS start to emit light which can be detected by a simple photosensor or even by a naked eye.

A number of attempts have been made in the past to generate plants with biosensing capabilities. For instance, plants have been engineered to contain green fluorescent protein (GFP), which would accumulate in plant tissues under stress or another condition. To detect GFP build up plants have to be illuminated with a UV light but very low GFP accumulation levels, hardly detectable with advanced lab equipment, rendered this approach impractical for field applications.

In case of ALPS, the plants emit visible light which can be readily detected by a simple photosensor and potentially even naked human eye. Moreover, no special treatment of plants, such as chemicals or UV light is needed. The “stress alarm system” is genetically integrated into plant’s DNA, contained in every plant seed and its progeny, and is fully self-sustainable. Stress-induced glow of the ALPS can be detected using variety of platforms, including plant proximity or machinery mounted sensors, or potentially airborne or satellite/GPS integrated equipment. Sensor signals can be communicated to farmer’s computer systems, or a mobile device, alerting of potential issues in real time. 

How ALPS can be helpful to farmers? Row crops, for instance, can benefit from “early alarm system” for fungal, nematode or other infestation. Pesticides are expensive, putting farmers in a dilemma: on the one hand, preventive treatment may stop future pest damage, but if no infestation occurs significant costs invested in pesticide will go in vain. On the other hand, if no preventive treatment is done and infestation is not caught in time, the crop can be lost. With nematode and certain other pests it can be the case by the time damage is discovered. ALPS can provide an early alert – within days or even hours from disease emergence – and allow for timely and highly local application of pesticide for successful treatment, significantly reducing pesticide use and thus cutting costs and benefitting the environment. Use of ALPS appears to be even more promising in high value crops, such as fruits and vegetables. These plants are treated throughout the growth season and ALPS responsive to drought or nutrient deficiency can allow costs reduction in irrigation and fertilizer use.

There are prospective applications for ALPS in environmental protection as well. For instance, ALPS can be engineered to emit light in response to heavy metals or other environmental pollutants, offering a simple and inexpensive way to monitor soil and ground water contamination.

Finally, ALPS have the potential to revolutionize field of plant phenomics research. With recent improvements in whole genome sequencing large amount of DNA sequences of corn and other major crops become available. However, our today’s abilities to connect between specifics of plant genome and the resulting plant phenotype are extremely limited. Most of today’s phenomics data is produced in a greenhouse or laboratory conditions, which are not necessarily translate to similar results in the field.

Straightforward and low cost photosensor-based monitoring of ALPS will allow to moving phenomics research into the field and screen large number of plants simultaneously. High-throughput field phenomics projects can produce highly meaningful results, directly applicable to commercial product development. Moreover, the non-destructive monitoring methods will allow close follow up of specific traits, internal plant processes and gene expression patterns in real-time through the lifetime of a plant.

Autoluminescent phytosensors is a well-timed technical advance for the newly developing field of precision agriculture, bringing the promise of improving agricultural productivity and management, cutting costs of farm production and benefitting the environment.

For more information visit www.bioglowtech.com.

Leave a Reply

Systems Management Stories
Sentera drone
DronesSentera Launches Micro Gimbal Upgrade for DJI Phantom 4 Line
February 22, 2018
Sentera today announced the availability of a Micro Gimbal upgrade for Sentera Single sensors mounted on the popular DJI Phantom Read More
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from Louisville
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Farmers-on-tablet
AmericasAg Tech News: Mavrx Opens Satellite Platform to Entire U.S. Farm Economy
February 20, 2018
The team at San Francisco, CA-based Mavrx has announced an initiative to increase access to advanced decision support tools in Read More
Real-time-VRA-cotton
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors for Nitrogen Management?
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Trending Articles
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announces Pilot Program
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
India-Farm-Irrigation
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions than Traditional Tractors
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Latest News
Skycision
Events12 Groundbreaking AgTech Startups Selected to Pitch at …
February 22, 2018
AgLaunch is bringing its Startup Station pitch event back to the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show for a second time Read More
Industry NewsDeere Garners Ag Data Transparency Certification
February 22, 2018
John Deere announces it has received the American Farm Bureau Ag Data Transparent (ADT) certification, which verifies to producers that Read More
Sentera drone
DronesSentera Launches Micro Gimbal Upgrade for DJI Phantom 4…
February 22, 2018
Sentera today announced the availability of a Micro Gimbal upgrade for Sentera Single sensors mounted on the popular DJI Phantom Read More
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from…
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Vineyard
Specialty CropsMaximize the Benefit of New Farm Technology
February 21, 2018
We have access to technology and information as never before. Working with vineyards in Virginia, I see examples of growers Read More
Industry NewsCropMetrics Names New CEO
February 20, 2018
CropMetrics, a leader in smart irrigation services in the U.S., and developer of the Virtual Optimizer software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, has Read More
Joel-Greiner-Fybr
Specialty CropsHow Wireless Technology Found its Way to a Central Cali…
February 20, 2018
At first glance, the story of Fybr isn’t an unusual one: a technology company looks toward U.S. agriculture as a Read More
Farmers-on-tablet
AmericasAg Tech News: Mavrx Opens Satellite Platform to Entire …
February 20, 2018
The team at San Francisco, CA-based Mavrx has announced an initiative to increase access to advanced decision support tools in Read More
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announ…
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
Real-time-VRA-cotton
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors fo…
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Industry NewsUnderstory Patents Solid State Weather Sensor
February 16, 2018
Understory today announced that it received a patent for its mechanical strain-based weather sensor, a key component in its weather Read More
Retailer Grower
Business ManagementAgriculture and Technology: Industry Progress Lies in C…
February 16, 2018
Water is essential for agriculture. While this may seem obvious, nowhere is it more apparent than the Sonoran Desert of Read More
Agtegra_SDSU
Industry NewsAgtegra Cooperative Pledges $500,000 to SDSU Precision …
February 15, 2018
Agtegra Cooperative, Aberdeen, SD, today in Pierre announced a $500,000 donation to South Dakota State University for the Precision Agriculture Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementThe Importance of Teamwork for Successful Precision Ag …
February 15, 2018
Interdependency is defined as the quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. I’m not a huge sports Read More
Texas-and-Oklahoma-Panhandles-Google-Earth
Data ManagementAgriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Eco…
February 15, 2018
It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for Read More
Adapt-N VRT
Decision Support SoftwareDTN Partners with Adapt-N to Provide Weather and Nitrog…
February 14, 2018
DTN has announced a partnership today at the National Farm Machinery Show with Agronomic Technology Corp (ATC), a Yara International Read More
Corn close up
Imagery/SensingSyngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Provider FarmShots
February 14, 2018
Syngenta has acquired FarmShots, Inc., a North Carolina-based innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery that detects plant health by analyzing absorbed Read More
Pexels-Agriculture_Fields_Tractor_Precision_AG
Tools & Smart EquipmentMachine Learning: The Secret Sauce of Precision Agricul…
February 13, 2018
With the development of agricultural technologies, crop and plant diseases have been advancing as well, causing degradation of both quality Read More