Drones to Enable Breeders to Analyze Plant Characteristics

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Using drones to capture high-resolution images of trial sites to enable breeders to analyze plant characteristics will be the focus of a new research project at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in Australia.

Ph.D student James Walter’s project aims to improve the speed and accuracy in phenotyping, which is observing external plant characteristics created by a plant’s genes, or genotype, interacting with its environment.

Walter will use drones and other technology to capture images to characterize wheat breeding yield plots to assess biomass, head density, maturity, nitrogen and other phenotyping traits.

“The data extracted from these images will then be used to develop statistical models that more accurately describe the performance of wheat varieties for breeders,” he says.

“Although DNA-based selection in now commonplace, field-based phenotyping is still the main method used to make genetic gain for traits such as flowering time, grain yield and disease resistance.

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