To meet the expected increase in food demand globally by 2050, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have devised a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based technique to collect the physical traits of organisms through firing pulse laser lights at surfaces of plants: stalks, ears, and leaves.
The 360-degree LiDAR technique developed by a research team led by Mr. Yufeng Ge and Mr. Suresh Thapa from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, collects millions of 3-D coordinates that will be clustered by sophisticated algorithms. With the device, comparisons within crops, whether genetically modified or organically produced, will be easily done. Identification of phenotypic traits that assist in food production will be also easier.
The technology, which works for three minutes for each plant, was already used to estimate four traits of corn and sorghum plants. The traits used were the surface area of the individual leaves and all leave on plants which helped determine how much energy-producing photosynthesis the plant can perform. While other traits namely, the angle at which leaves protrude from a stalk and how much those angles vary within a plant, influenced both photosynthesis and how densely a crop can be planted in a field.
To further advance the technology, the team plans to add different colored lasers to its set-up. The additional lasers will help identify a plant’s water and nitrogen uptake.
See full story in Science Daily.