Phenotyping Lab demonstrates benefits of digital plant imaging

The use of digital plant imaging technology to measure the structural and functional properties of plants was explored during a webinar hosted by CHAP.

The online event looked at the use of imaging within agriculture, for applications such as trait quantification and remote sensing. It also focused on collaborations and project work currently taking place at CHAP’s Phenotyping Laboratory at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden.

Senior Scientific Specialist and phenotyping expert Dr Tom Ashfield gave an overview of the lab. He said: “Phenotyping is the scoring and quantifying of plant traits and responses. This can be simple aspects such as height, through to more complex variables such as resistance to disease.

“Using imaging to do this has many benefits. Not only does it remove subjectivity, but it also allows the scoring of traits that aren’t visible to the naked eye. It allows for a high throughput as it can be automated, and data can be captured multiple times throughout the growth cycle.

“The lab at Rothamsted has both imaging equipment and controlled environment chambers. We can quantify plant traits within a laboratory environment, but also work with partners to develop remote sensing for use in the field or glasshouse.”

Dr Ashfield also gave an overview of the equipment within the Phenotyping Laboratory including the LemnaTec PhenoCenter (lab-scale multi-camera system), Videometerlab 4 (spectral imaging instrument), XIMEA cameras (for portable multispectral imaging) and the Fotenix DELTA (3D multispectral imaging system).

The Phenotyping Lab has partnered with the Small Robot Company (SRC) on more than one occasion. Tom Walters, SRC’s Head of Intelligence gave insight into how collaboration with CHAP enhances the company’s product development.

He discussed how they are using multispectral imaging approaches, initially developed in the lab, to improve the detection of blackgrass at various stages within a field environment. Such images are helping to successfully identify blackgrass at an earlier growth stage.

Tom also spoke about the SlugBot project and the use of images to train machine learning models to successfully detect slugs prior to treatment via robotics.

Other speakers at the webinar were Charles Veys, MD of Fotenix, and Michael Carstensen, CEO of Videometer.

Charles spoke about the role of Fotenix’s DELTA platform technology in a project to grade fruits and provide disease alerts in tomatoes and strawberries. The initial imaging work – conducted with the Phenotyping Laboratory and Rothamsted scientists – has since been developed and is now being rolled out at a commercial level and across other crops.

Michael discussed spectral imaging of seed and grain to identify a broad range of features and traits including disease. This data can then be used to assess grain prior to automated picking and sorting.

CHAP’s Commercial Director, Linsey Cresswell said: “The webinar gave a great overview of how the Phenotyping Laboratory can benefit UK agriculture.

“This resource is waiting to be tapped into by those wishing to assess the effectiveness of new products including biological solutions, under carefully controlled conditions.

“Whether it’s evaluating new chemistry, screening for disease resistance traits or determining spectral signatures for use in remote sensing, the Phenotyping Laboratory can help to facilitate those needs.”

To watch the webinar in full, visit our YouTube channel. For more information about the Phenotyping Laboratory at Rothamsted Research, go to Phenotyping, to find out about the project with Fotenix go to Soft Fruit Analysis.

To discuss potential project work, please contact enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk referencing this article.