Cultivation/Production, Research, Studies/Reports

If plants could talk: Potato researchers developing new plant assessment tools

sum15_talkingplants_1Scientists at Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre hope to develop a handheld device that could one day tell farmers how their crops are doing.
Imagine if you could walk into the field and have your potato plants tell you how they are doing. This groundbreaking technology is closer than you think. Two Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B., Bernie Zebarth and Helen Tai, are working on a method for collecting data from plants almost the same way as a car mechanic assesses your car’s engine. The researchers are looking at a process called ‘plant gene expression’ as an indicator of how plants are behaving and what they are sensing in their environment. Specifically, Zebarth’s and Tai’s research focuses on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needs of potato plants. The goal, says Zebarth, is to develop a test capable of assessing the nutrient status of the crop as it grows in the field. In the future, the researchers would like to broaden the scope of their work to also look at more plant stressors. More

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