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Plant Health Monitoring system

Ghent University develops remote sensing technology in order to monitor plant health status. The technology and know-how harbor large potential for exploitation in terrestrial precision agriculture and horticulture, and also open novel avenues for life support systems in space.

Ghent University is located in Belgium. Its renowned Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology has extensive expertise in the study of plant hormones such as ethylene in plant growth and development. Bioimaging techniques, including thermography and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging, are used to study plant stress.

Developing and testing Plant Health Monitoring system

In the TIME SCALE project, Ghent University develops and tests a Plant Health Monitoring system. By using remote sensing technology, such a system can detect stress in plants caused by for example nutrient deficiency or infections, allowing the grower to take actions and improve the conditions at an early stage.

Sensing volatiles emitted by the plants

Plants normally emit a wide range of volatile organic compounds. These compounds are products of the plant’s metabolism and make up a useful biomarker for the plant’s health status. When plants become stressed they adapt by changing their metabolism. These changes are reflected in the emitted volatiles both qualitatively (which compounds) and quantitatively (how much). As such changes normally occur before any effects become visible to the human eye, monitoring volatiles represents an early warning system for suboptimal plant growth.

 

In the TIME SCALE project, Ghent University uses a SIFT-MS (Selected-ion flow-tube mass spectrometry) to measure the volatile organic compounds. With this gas analysis technique, absolute concentrations of trace compounds in the off-gas from the plants can be calculated in real time, without the need for sample preparation or frequent calibration.

Read more about gas monitoring in the TIME SCALE project through cooperation with Interscience.

Plant imaging

In addition to monitoring volatiles, Ghent University also develops a Multispectral Automated Dynamic Imager. This phenotyping system uses a high-tech camera combination and advanced data processing of the images to monitor plant behavior and the plant health status. Together, these systems make up a versatile and powerful system for plant monitoring.