Hours of research in a lab mean next to nothing if a researcher doesn’t know what happens to seeds in the field. Up till now scientists have checked crops the same way it’s been done for centuries- by walking through the rows.
But not any longer. Now researchers have created the Phenocart, a portable collection of sensors scientists can push through the field to collect data on plants’ physical traits. This, “FitBit” records growth rate and color instead of blood pressure and physical activity.
The new creation means fields that once would have required hours or days of intensive labor can now be recorded in much less time and with considerably less effort. Not only is that a relief to researchers, but the Phenocart also means breeders can design larger experiments.
“Larger sample size gives you more power,” said Jesse Poland, assistant professor in the Departments of Plant Pathology and Agronomy at Kansas State University. “Measuring phenotypes is very labor-intensive, and really limits how big of an experiment we can do.”
The Phenocart also offers scientists the ability to change sensors, depending on the type of information they need to measure. One such sensor can measure the “greeness” of a plant, while a thermometer checks leaf temperature. GPS pinpoints the exact location of the data and information is processed with software that is included in the Phenocart package. Another winning feature is the portability of the cart. Pack it up and take it anywhere, says Poland.
Read more about Poland’s work in Crop Science.