“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
Data ManagementCDMS Announces SeedIQ Acquisition
June 26, 2017
Crop Data Management Systems, Inc., (CDMS) announces the acquisition of SeedIQ as part of its growth plan to provide complete Read More
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture (OPINION)
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
Soil Scientists
Data ManagementAccessing USDA Soil Data for Precision Farming
June 13, 2017
Many precision farming websites have integrated the USDA NRCS soil survey database using the USDA Soil Data Access web portal. Read More
Trending Articles
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
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
InternationalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
Latest News
Data ManagementCDMS Announces SeedIQ Acquisition
June 26, 2017
Crop Data Management Systems, Inc., (CDMS) announces the acquisition of SeedIQ as part of its growth plan to provide complete Read More
Cotton closeup
Imagery/SensingCotton Growth Management with Precision Agriculture
June 20, 2017
A cotton crop presents some important differences to other commodities that are widely produced in Brazil, such as soybean and Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsCNBC: Inside Amazon’s Whole Foods Takeover
June 20, 2017
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods sent the stock of competing grocery chains plummeting. To understand why, you need to know Read More
DronesNavigating a New World: Drone Technology in Agriculture…
June 20, 2017
My first exposure to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was as a master’s student at Kansas State University. I was researching Read More
Precision Ag Innovation Series
EventsInnovation Series Agenda Zeroes In On Maximizing Key Se…
June 14, 2017
In a recent survey of service providers conducted by PrecisionAg® Professional magazine, more than seven in 10 indicated that variable Read More
Soil Scientists
Data ManagementAccessing USDA Soil Data for Precision Farming
June 13, 2017
Many precision farming websites have integrated the USDA NRCS soil survey database using the USDA Soil Data Access web portal. Read More
GEOSYS In-Season Imagery
Decision Support SoftwareGeosys Announces Imagery and Weather Data Offering
June 13, 2017
Geosys, a provider of agronomic decision support tools, today launched Geosys Labs, a new program that will make its global 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
Decision Support SoftwareMyriad Mobile Raises $1.5 Million to Launch New Ag-Tech…
June 12, 2017
Myriad Mobile, a software technology company focused on mobile and web applications, has raised $1.5 million in a Pre-Series A Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable-Rate Fertigation Can Be Simple
June 12, 2017
A rule is a rule is a rule, right? Well, not always. Sometimes, rules are meant to be changed. Most 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
Sensors/IoTLeveraging IoT to Improve Data Collection for Agricultu…
June 12, 2017
Between population growth and climate change, farms of all sizes are being challenged to increase yields. Internet of Things (IoT) Read More
DronesAg Drone Update: The Hunt for 1,000 (OPINION)
June 10, 2017
Having obtained my FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone Operators license back in September of last year, I’ve spent the past Read More
Industry NewsMergers & Acquisitions: Land O’Lakes Tosses E…
June 9, 2017
Land O’Lakes has made a minority equity investment in EFC Systems, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and precision solution provider Read More
Mixmate-featured-image
Decision Support SoftwareHandy Software, Hardware for the Field
June 7, 2017
More than two decades ago, Iowa grower Doug Applegate wished for a “little portable chemical blending system” that could easily Read More
Decision Support SoftwareHarnessing A Team To Build Your Own Software
June 7, 2017
What’s a powerhouse retail network to do when it can’t find a software system to meet incredibly diverse needs? Build Read More
Tim Ferrell Marshall County Co-op
Decision Support SoftwareWhen It’s Time To Switch Software
June 7, 2017
No one in their right mind wants to change software. That’s the opinion of Tim Ferrell, manager of Marshall County Read More
PA Special Report Enterprise
Decision Support SoftwareSpecial Report: Enterprise Management Systems
June 7, 2017
A functional and stable software system can allow a retail operation to run at maximum efficiency, build customer loyalty and Read More