Plants show stress in thermal spectrum

December 15, 2015, University of Twente

Plants experience stress as a result of growing under non-optimal conditions. For example, too little water or low temperatures lead to clear responses such as wilting or defoliation. But exposure to milder forms of stress can also affect a plant. Researchers at the ITC Faculty for Geo-information science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente have found a way to detect these milder forms of stress.

A new study reveals that plants show signals in a part of the electro-magnetic spectrum that has been very little studied for plants to date. The study is forthcoming in one of the leading remote sensing journals, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

A team of plant ecologists and spectroscopists of ITC have shown that when plants were stressed, either by lack of water or too , plants change their emissivity in the thermal infrared. Emissivity determines how much energy a surface radiates.

Thermal infrared

Electro-magnetic radiation can be characterized by its "size", the wavelength. Very short radiation (400-700 nanometers or 0.0000004-0.0000007 meters) is visible light. Radiation of longer wavelengths is known as infrared radiation and used, for example, in night vision equipment. A specific part of this infrared part of the spectrum, called thermal infrared (3000 – 12000 nanometers), turns out to contain information on whether plants are suffering from mild, but prolonged .

Tune energy budget

The importance of the mentioned study is that subtle plant stress can be detected when looking at radiation in the thermal infrared. But also, it means that plants tune their energy budget to some extent by changing how much energy they lose in the form of thermal infrared . This will influence how respond to, for example, climatic change.

Explore further: New technology colors in the infrared rainbow

More information: Maria F. Buitrago et al. Changes in thermal infrared spectra of plants caused by temperature and water stress, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2015.11.003

Related Stories

New technology colors in the infrared rainbow

November 9, 2015

Researchers have devised a technology that can bring true color to infrared imaging systems, like the one used to track Arnold Schwarzenegger through the jungle in the movie "Predator."

Eagle-eye view to inform crop frost management

December 2, 2015

Discovering the wavelengths that can best capture the devastating impact of a frost event on broadacre crops could provide WA farmers with another tool to fight back against this common but destructive event.

New infrared camera detects gas leaks in industry

October 1, 2015

This company's invention, supported by the Business Incubator at the UC3M Science Park, is based on technology patented by researchers from the UC3M Infrared Laboratory (initialled LIR in Spanish), and can detect gas leaks ...

For first time, entire thermal infrared spectrum observed

June 15, 2012

The driving mechanism of the greenhouse effect, and the underpinning of modern anthropogenic warming, is the absorption, emission, and transmission of infrared radiation by atmospheric gases. The heat-trapping ability of ...

Recommended for you

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Probiotic bacteria evolve inside mice's GI tracts

March 26, 2019

Probiotics—which are living bacteria taken to promote digestive health—can evolve once inside the body and have the potential to become less effective and sometimes even harmful, according to a new study from Washington ...


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.