Plant Phenotyping involves the recovery and analysis of quantitative data on plant structure and function from image and sensor data. It is a new approach to bridge the 'genotype to phenotype gap' which is being applied in plant breeding.
Plant Phenotyping potentially holds the key to future food security and the second Green Revolution. Therefore, through a € 1.3m investment from Science Foundation Ireland, the Integrated Plant Phenomics and Future Experimental Climate Platform has been established at UCD. The combination of infrastructure and facilities available to researchers represents the first globally of its kind.
The Integrated Plant Phenomics and Future Experimental Climate Platform will consist of a X-ray CT system and six reach-in plant growth chambers.
The CT-system is a large capacity 3D X-ray CT scanner which uses X-rays taken from multiple angles to non-destructively build-up a 3D image of whole plants and their internal structures, both above and below ground with fast (minutes) scan times. The scan resolution ranges between tens and hundreds of microns for samples ranging in total overall size of between 5 mm and 15 cm diameter.
The growth chambers will be high-spec plant climate chambers with full (de)humidification capabilities. They can monitor/control temp/ RH/ PAR/ photoperiod/atmosphere/watering to high accuracy providing excellent experimental control.
Novel custom additions will include full-spectrum variable LEDs, enabling more accurate representation of sunlight conditions experienced by crops under field conditions. The chambers will integrate thermal imaging to continuously capture leaf temperature and inferred ecophysiological processes (gas exchange).
The Integrated Plant Phenomics and Future Experimental Climate Platform will be housed in the same building at UCD allowing seamless transition from experiment to scanner. The benefit/novelty of this platform is that a future 2020 climate scenario can be simulated in the climate chambers and continuous phenotypic responses of the plant can be tracked non-destructively below/above ground using X-ray and thermal imaging. High-spec image analysis PCs with VG StudioMAX software licences are available for visiting researchers to use. For destructive sampling of roots there is WinRHIZO scanning equipment and software. Breakthroughs in crop/plant/soil/food science will be possible, particularly below ground and at night, because the consequences of climate change or new crop breeds on below-ground /night-time processes have not been readily accessible before the advance of X-ray CT, thermal imaging and integration of these components into an infrastructure platform.