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Imaging helps accelerate breeding
Scientists have developed a new method to estimate the biomass of wheat crops in all growth stages using aerial imaging.
The process can compare hundreds of different genotypes to select the best candidates for breeding.
Breeders and growers commonly use crop biomass as a go-to trait to evaluate crop yield and typically measure by weighing plant material produced.
Agriculture Victoria research scientist Dr Bikram Banerjee said he was excited to have found an alternative to traditional methods.
“Harvesting, drying and weighing plants can be very time consuming,” he said.
“We can now reliably estimate the dry biomass of wheat by flying a drone over a paddock to collect aerial images, which provides us with the data we need.”
Dr Banerjee said traditional methods to measure the dry biomass and fresh biomass of a crop became problematic when breeders wanted to compare hundreds of genotypes with different growth behaviour.
“In this research, we wanted to test the ability of high-throughput technologies to reliably measure biomass for a large number of wheat genotypes in a non-invasive way over a large area,” he said.
“Our mathematical analysis showed a correlation of 96 percent accuracy in layman’s terms for dry biomass across all growth stages. It is unusual to get a correlation this high.”
The new approach also outperformed all other widely used traditional methods commonly used to estimate the dry and fresh biomass of wheat.
“We wanted a system where we could screen thousands of genotypes across the life cycle of wheat without compromising accuracy, and these results showed our approach was robust for different growth stages,” Dr Banerjee said.
“This tool has the potential to become the go-to technique for screening varieties for traits such as salinity, heat or frost tolerance, disease resistance, nutrient-use efficiency and drought tolerance.”
Dr Banerjee’s research paper is available online at dx.doi. org/10.3390/rs12193164.