“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
Senet Network
Sensors/IoTSenet, Sensoterra to Deliver Real-Time Soil Moisture Monitoring to Agriculture Market
July 26, 2017
Senet, a provider of global connectivity and network management for the Internet of Things, and Sensoterra BV, a provider of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Systems ManagementAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Imagery/SensingEFC Systems Announces Imagery Delivery Integration with Geosys
July 25, 2017
EFC Systems, Inc. has announced a new integration between its FieldAlytics product and Geosys Bridge API for direct delivery of Read More
Trending Articles
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Latest News
Senet Network
Sensors/IoTSenet, Sensoterra to Deliver Real-Time Soil Moisture Mo…
July 26, 2017
Senet, a provider of global connectivity and network management for the Internet of Things, and Sensoterra BV, a provider of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Systems ManagementAGCO to Acquire Precision Planting
July 26, 2017
AGCO and The Climate Corp. announced today that a definitive agreement has been signed for AGCO to acquire the Precision Read More
CNH-and-Trimble-Data-Sharing_1
Data ManagementTrimble, CNH Collaborate on Data Sharing Connectivity
July 26, 2017
Trimble and CNH Industrial, a global leader in agricultural equipment, have announced they are enabling wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Read More
Imagery/SensingEFC Systems Announces Imagery Delivery Integration with…
July 25, 2017
EFC Systems, Inc. has announced a new integration between its FieldAlytics product and Geosys Bridge API for direct delivery of Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementProspera Raises $15 Million to Transform Farms with Dat…
July 25, 2017
Digital farming company Prospera has announced a $15 million Series B funding round. Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Read More
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resist…
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
John-Deere-and-Farm-Dog
Grower Services & SolutionsFarm Dog Strengthens its Integration with John Deere Op…
July 24, 2017
Farm Dog, the leading pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has completed the second stage of its Read More
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Sensors/IoTHortau Named Finalist for CogX Artificial Intelligence …
July 10, 2017
Hortau was recently named a CogX Award finalist in the Best Artificial Intelligence Product in Agriculture category. The awards were Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsVantage South Atlantic Announces Mid-South Expansion
July 10, 2017
Vantage South Atlantic announced that it has joined Trimble Agriculture’s global network of independent Vantage partners to provide farmers, advisors, Read More