Miniature probes help tackle climate change

Jan 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: Adjusting wind power production during migration season saves bats

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Adapting crops and 'natives' to a changing climate

Jul 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 ...

Rot-resistant wheat could save farmers millions

Oct 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

Jul 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.

Recommended for you

Reducing pesticides and boosting harvests

8 hours ago

Scientists in Italy are experimenting with sound vibrations to replace pesticides. Adapting different eco-friendly methods they are able to boost harvests and open up a new chapter in sustainable farming.

Native vegetation makes a comeback on Santa Cruz Island

8 hours ago

On islands, imported plants and animals can spell ecological disaster. The Aleutians, the Galápagos, the Falklands, Hawaii, and countless other archipelagoes have seen species such as rats, goats, brown ...

Power lines offer environmental benefits

9 hours ago

Power lines, long considered eyesores or worse, a potential threat to human health, actually serve a vital role in maintaining the health of a significant population, according to new research out of the ...

Japan's whaling bid tested by world panel

12 hours ago

Japan's plans to resume a controversial Antarctic whale hunt in the name of research, which opponents say is really just for the meat, came under scrutiny in Slovenia on Tuesday.

User comments : 0