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Plant health monitoring using multispectral imaging and volatile analysis

The TIME SCALE project was presented at the 4th International Plant Phenotyping Symposium, December 13 - 15, 2016 in El Batán, Texcoco, México.

The symposium was organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) within the framweork of the International Plant Phenotyping Network (IPPN). Three main themes were persued during the symposium: I) Advances in Plant Phenotyping Technologies, II) Phenotyping for Crop Improvement, and III) Adding Value to Phenotypic Data.



Plant health monitoring using multispectral imaging and volatile analysis for space and terrestrial applications


Aaron I. Velez-Ramirez1, Joke Belza1, Joeri Vercammen3, Alex Van Den Bossche2, Ann-Iren Kittang Jost4 and Dominique Van Der Straeten1

1) Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology, Faculty of Sciences. Ghent University, Belgium. 2) Department of Electrical Energy, Systems and Automation, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. Ghent University, Belgium. 3) Interscience, Belgium. 4) Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS), NTNU Social Research, Trondheim, Norway (in representation of TIME SCALE consortium).


Plant phenotyping technology has the potential of advancing basic scientific knowledge and saving resources in crop production not only on planet Earth, but also on the Moon and Mars. Interestingly, developing plant phenotyping technology for such seemingly distant space application has the potential of improving terrestrial technology even before any equipment is shipped in a rocket. If humans are to explore deep space, food has to be produced on site using minimal resources. Currently, however, our basic understanding of how plants and crops will behave under a gravitational pull different from the terrestrial one is still very limited.

The only means to grow plants under simulated lunar or martian gravity is onboard the International Space Station (ISS) using an equipment known as the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS). However useful, the EMCS now needs updates and improvements, including its plant phenotyping capabilities. Within the TIME SCALE project, we are developing a plant health monitoring system consisting of a multispectral imaging and volatile monitoring systems. The imaging system is able to perform chlorophyll fluorescence kinetics and monitor the visible, near infrared (NIR) and long-wave infrared (LWIR) spectra. The volatile analysis system is based on Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS), which is able to detect and quantify in real time complex mixtures of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). The use of these systems should allow the identification of novel stress markers for monitoring crops. Additionally, the lessons learned from the design, construction and use of this terrestrial system will guide the miniaturization and simplification of the technology to be fitted into a plant monitoring system prototype for updating the EMCS’ plant phenotyping capacity onboard the ISS.


The full poster can be downloaded as PDF (1.9MB): TIME SCALE poster - IPPS 2016.

December 15, 2016. Illustration: Ghent University.