Lincoln, Neb. —The physical characteristics of a plant can reveal a lot about its underlying genetics. How many kernels of wheat does a single plant produce? How quickly does a corn plant grow? How much water does it use? Understanding a plant’s physical traits, and linking those traits to specific genes, ultimately drives development of improved crops, higher yields for farmers and greater food security worldwide.
The science of capturing the characteristics of plants is called phenotyping, and until recently, it has been extremely time- and labor-intensive. Historically, trained researchers relied largely on the sight, touch and feel of a plant to record and understand the phenotype. Nowadays, technologies such as drones, robots, cameras and laser scanners can measure far greater numbers of plants instantly.
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Story by Cara Pesek | IANR Media