Researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) have designed a portable optical sensor capable of monitoring plant stress.
The device offers farmers, botanists and agronomists a new tool for early diagnosis and real-time monitoring of plant health and stress in field conditions.
Anyone who follows this blog knows: precision farming is an important strategy for addressing the food crisis. New technological and sustainable agricultural practices aim at healthier and more widespread foods. The diagnosis of plant stress can be used to treat them before the onset of visible symptoms of decay and the consequent loss of yield.
Raman, anti-stress sensor for plants
SMART's new portable Raman sensor is a useful tool in precision agriculture that enables early detection of nitrogen deficiency in plants. A factor that can be linked to premature leaf deterioration and loss of yield.
In a paper called "Portable Raman leaf-clip sensor for quick detection of plant stress"Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists explain how they designed, built and tested the device that allows the optical sensor to probe the chemistry of the leaf and establish the stress state of the plants.
Laboratory analysis directly in the field
"Our results showed that the in vivo measurements with the handheld Raman sensor were consistent with measurements obtained with a benchtop spectrometer under laboratory conditions," says the Prof. Rajeev, professor of electrical and computer engineering at MIT Ram, co-lead author of the paper and principal investigator at DiSTAP.
'We have shown that early detection of nitrogen deficiency (a critical nutrient and the most important component of fertilizers) in living plants is possible with the handheld sensor,' says the researcher.
While the study primarily looked at measuring nitrogen levels in plants, the device can also be used to detect the levels of other plant stress phenotypes. Drought, heat and cold stress, salt stress and light stress. The wide range of plant stressors that can be detected by the Raman sensor makes it ideal for field use.
A "dashboard" for plant stress and more.
The team believes the discovery could help farmers maximize crop yields. Raman can ensure minimal negative impacts on the environment, including minimizing pollution of aquatic ecosystems. This objective is achieved by reducing the outflow of nitrogen and infiltration into the water table.
The sensor for measuring plant stress has been demonstrated on multiple varieties of vegetables. It will support the effort to produce low-cost, nutritious vegetables.
This device literally allows you to "talk to plants". Reformulation: it allows you to LISTEN to the plants, and to know exactly when they are well, when they are sick. And when they are "hungry and thirsty", and what exactly do they need.
It will lead not only to an excellent rationalization of resources, but also to a more natural selection of vegetables with special and specific characteristics of density, resistance, nutritional value.
Extending this work to a wider variety of crops can contribute to better crop yields globally. More: greater climatic resilience and mitigation of environmental pollution with a reduced use of fertilizers.