Functional phenotyping: Selecting the winning crop based on its competitive performance
|A simulator platform and diagnostic algorithms|
|Prof. Menachem Moshelion email@example.com|
|March 11, 2020|
The R.H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, The R.H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel
The development of new crop cultivars and chemical products that improve agricultural yields, in general, and under abiotic stress conditions, in particular, is a long and challenging process due to the complex nature of plant–environment interactions [known as genotype–environment (G×E) interactions]. Over the last decade, many phenotyping methods have been developed to quantify G×E interactions. However, conventional imaging-based methods are limited in their ability to produce deep understandings of the functional ramifications of these interactions. PlantDitech is an Israeli ag-tech company that has developed a simulator platform and diagnostic algorithms that allow for the production of high-resolution, whole-plant physiological profiles.
This phenotyping platform (known as PlantArray, Fig. 1) can be used to expose many plants to multiple environmental conditions (including different types of stress) in a very precise manner. The platform can be installed in many different types of growth facilities and can be used to expose plants to various and changing environmental conditions (i.e., temperature, light, humidity, soil type, soil nutrients and soil water levels). While the plants are exposed to the different conditions, the system measures the plants’ physiological parameters (e.g., biomass gain, transpiration, root flux, stomatal conductance and more) simultaneously and identifies the best-performing plants under a particular set of conditions. The entire screening/diagnostic procedure is completed within a relatively short period of time (4–6 weeks) with a high degree of accuracy. The results are highly correlated with field results, dramatically shortening the R&D process, as these trials replace and/or allow the optimization of long and expensive field trials. The platform allows new ag products (e.g.,plant-nutrition products and biostimulants, pesticides, etc.) to be brought to market more quickly and can also be used to develop optimization protocols for soil treatments,fertilizer applications and yield production under uncertain conditions, as well as for the selection of stress-resilient plants in breeding programs.
The Plant Kingdom is the primary productive biological system on Earth. In fact, photosynthetic organisms produce all of the primary organic matter on Earth (known as the five F’s: Food, Feed, Fiber, Fuel,and Fun). To grow and produce, all plants need water, nutrients, CO2 and light. To produce optimal crop yields, each genotype will have different requirements, which will be heavily dependent on the prevailing environmental conditions. Under non-optimal conditions (i.e., stress), plants shift from a productive mode of action to a defensive mode of action, with defensive activities intensifying (in a linear manner) as the stress level rises.
Crop Protection and Growth Enhancers
Figure 2. Functional screening of pepper plants exposed to different salinity treatments. This experiment was designed to identify the plants’ salinity threshold. This knowledge will enable farmers to use the much cheaper saline water available in the Negev with a minimal yield penalty. (Photo taken by Nadav Haish at the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)