Wheat Phenotyper

(Jim) Hi I’m Jim Shroyer, Extension Wheat Specialist at Kansas State University and this morning we have Jesse Poland with us and he is a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology Wheat Genetics. So, Jesse, we have a really strange machine here behind us. And yeah, it’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a while. It’s got high clearance and all that so obviously we’re going through a crop and since you’re a wheat geneticist, I’m guessing it’s with wheat. So what is this thing here? (Jesse) Well this is what we call High Throughput Phenotyper. (Jim) Say it again. (Jesse) It’s a High Throughput Phenotyping machine. And so phenotyping you can think about taking measurements on the wheat crop. (Jim) On the fly. (Jesse) Yeah on the fly. And so what this machine does is it integrates precision GPS and then different sets of sensors. And these sensors will measure greenness of the crop plant, it will measure plant height, they’ll measure canopy temperature and we can do this really rapidly and continuously. (Jim) So, let’s go back to this phenotyping that replaces you walking through the field and taking notes saying this variety we rate at a seven, and we can see it with the sensors here that it’s hotter or it’s a different color. Right, is that what you’re saying? (Jesse) Absolutely. So, phenotype is really like, in our case, a visual measurement. In this case, it would be sensor measurement and the real goalĀ of this machine is to be able to do that much more rapidly than we are able to do, visually or by hand. (Jim) So when we develop a variety you know, we talk about 8, 10, 12 years. And we make 10,000 crosses to come up with one. So, now you’re talking about a lot more field studies and doing it much quicker. (Jesse) Right. So finding a new variety is really a numbers game so it’s made maybe one in a thousand or one in ten thousand so it takes a lot of time to look through that number of varieties. And so with this technology if we can do this ten times faster than you could by hand, then we’re enabling ourselves to look at ten times more material and that gives us a ten times better chance of finding an outstanding new breed variety. (Jim) Right, OK. So, let’s talk a little bit more about those sensors, I think I cut you off there a second ago. So go ahead. (Jesse) So, some of the sensors we have on here, we have a green seeker and a crop circle and these are really coming from production precision ag type applications. And both of these are a way of measuring normalized difference vegetation index, which is just a fancy way of saying greenness of the plots. (Jim) Right. Or how stressed it is. (Jesse) Yeah. This is a good measure of drought tolerance or nitrogen use efficiency and really measure stress. We also have a sonar system that will measure plant height. So if you have stunting from drought or disease.. (Jim) Wheat streak or something like that. (Jesse) Some type of viral stunting you can start to measure this. And then also we have infrared thermometers that will measure canopy temperature, so this is also a good proxy of heat and drought tolerance, on how well those roots are bringing up water. (Jim) So, tell me what’s this little bad boy cost? Just ballpark figure? (Jesse) So roughly, the real cost is between the actual tractor, the GPS units and then the different sets of sensors. (Jim) You just don’t go down to the equipment store, or the dealership and buy this unit. This is a homemade unit. (Jesse) Right, this is custom homemade. We’ve been collaborating a lot with the engineering department at Kansas State and so this is really a one of a kind machine. So really between all of the equipment and the GPS units and the actual vehicle we probably have about $60,000 or $70,000 invested in this but that obviously doesn’t count all of the really specialized engineering time that went in to actually assembling it and putting it all together. (Jim) OK. One last question, how fast can that puppy go? (Jesse) It tops out at about two miles and hour. (Jim) OK. Thank you.

 

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