Miniature probes help tackle climate change

January 30, 2013
Miniature probes help tackle climate change

Promising research on the use of miniature pressure probes to gauge the water status of wheat leaves could ultimately help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Researchers from the University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture (IOA), working with the CSIRO and , have trialled the ZIM-probes, invented by German Professor Ulrich Zimmerman for use in irrigation scheduling of horticultural crops. 

They wanted to find out if the tiny probes, which measure 10mm in diameter and weigh only 5.5g, would work with - especially wheat, which has more delicate leaves than the kinds of plants the probes were originally designed for. 

Their results, published this month in Plant and Soil, an international journal on plant-soil relationships, show that the probes can be used to successfully measure how well maintain the balance of their leaves, particularly when challenged by poor water supply. 

The research is expected to pave the way for breeders to identify more drought-resistant genotypes and in turn offer farmers stronger strains of wheat to help cope with conditions. 

The pressure probes are clamped to leaves using small magnets and connected to transmitters, which radio detailed continuous data on the water status of plants to a nearby control box. The control box uses to convey the real-time data to a server, enabling the data to be accessed anytime, from anywhere in the world, via the internet. 

Dr Helen Bramley, a research associate with IOA, said previous measurement methods had been time-consuming and destructive to plants while providing only limited information. In contrast, the Zim-probes were non-invasive, quick to set up, and could be safely left on the plants for weeks at a time. 

The probes, along with the continuous monitoring, also provided far more detailed information at a resolution not previously achievable - an unexpected but welcome development which has paved the way for new research into plant water use. 

"In addition to the potential for screening more drought-tolerant germplasm in a range of crops, there are a lot of things I want to do now because it has opened up new avenues to explore in terms of the physiology and the mechanisms controlling water use and leaf hydration," Dr Bramley said. 

The research is part of a wider focus on researching the impacts of the predicted future climate on cereal crops, particularly wheat, to adapt to future conditions and ensure a sustainable future for the production of wheat, which is Australia's most important agricultural crop. 

Explore further: Ancient genes used to produce salt-tolerant wheat

Related Stories

Rot-resistant wheat could save farmers millions

October 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- CSIRO researchers have identified wheat and barley lines resistant to Crown Rot - a disease that costs Australian wheat and barley farmers $79 million in lost yield every year.

Improving wheat yields for global food security

July 25, 2011

With the world’s population set to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, CSIRO scientists are hunting down and exploiting a number of wheat’s key genetic traits in a bid to substantially boost its grain yield.

Adapting crops and 'natives' to a changing climate

July 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- CSIRO scientists are investigating the potentially damaging effects climate change will have on Australia’s agricultural crops and native plants as carbon dioxide concentrations, temperatures and rainfall ...

Recommended for you

A novel toxin for M. tuberculosis

August 4, 2015

Despite 132 years of study, no toxin had ever been found for the deadly pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which infects 9 million people a year and kills more than 1 million.

New biosensors for managing microbial 'workers'

August 4, 2015

Super productive factories of the future could employ fleets of genetically engineered bacterial cells, such as common E. coli, to produce valuable chemical commodities in an environmentally friendly way. By leveraging their ...

Fish that have their own fish finders

August 4, 2015

The more than 200 species in the family Mormyridae communicate with one another in a way completely alien to our species: by means of electric discharges generated by an organ in their tails.

Volcanic bacteria take minimalist approach to survival

August 4, 2015

New research by scientists at the University of Otago and GNS Science is helping to solve the puzzle of how bacteria are able to live in nutrient-starved environments. It is well-established that the majority of bacteria ...

Sundew discovery on Facebook makes plant science news

August 3, 2015

A new species of sundew has been discovered on Facebook. The find is a carnivorous sundew, Drosera magnifica. The new discovery comes from a single mountaintop in southeastern Brazil—the largest New World sundew.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.