Singapore researchers design portable optical sensor for real-time plant stress detection

SMART's discovery is a useful tool in precision agriculture to improve crop yield through sustainable farming

Image source: Shutterstock

Image source: Shutterstock

Researchers from the Disruptive & Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision (DiSTAP) Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) of Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT's research enterprise in Singapore and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) have recently designed a portable optical sensor that can monitor whether a plant is under stress. The device offers farmers and plant scientists a new tool for early diagnosis and real-time monitoring of plant health in field conditions.

Precision agriculture is an important strategy for tackling growing food insecurity through sustainable farming practices, but it requires new technologies for the rapid diagnosis of plant stresses before the onset of visible symptoms and subsequent yield loss. SMART's new portable Raman leaf-clip sensor is a useful tool in precision agriculture allowing early diagnosis of nitrogen deficiency in plants, which can be linked to premature leaf deterioration and loss of yield.

While the study mainly looked at measuring nitrogen levels in plants, the device can also be used to detect levels of other plant stress phenotypes such as drought, heat and cold stress, saline stress, and light stress.

The team believes their findings can aid farmers to maximise crop yield, while ensuring minimal negative impacts on the environment, including minimising pollution of aquatic ecosystems by reducing nitrogen runoff and infiltration into the water table.

 

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