Crop improvement at ICRISAT just got more extensive and faster, with the LeasyScan facility getting new multispectral scanners and the launch of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Phenotyping Platform. Inaugurated on 3 December 2021, both these facilities are set to provide crop breeders information from high-resolution imaging, including insights into plants’ experience of agro-chemicals under biotic stress, a first for ICRISAT.
The new PlantEye F600 scanners on the LeasyScan can scan both near-infrared (NIR) and the visible spectrum of light. NIR scanning, which was not available in the scanners used earlier, helps assess traits which can be distinguished with color intensity like plant senescence, stay green, foliar diseases (by distortion in color) and biomass quality traits like leaf nitrogen content.
Advanced phenotyping traits like leaf area, LA index, plant height, biomass, etc., and water utilization traits like transpiration and transpiration rate can be measured faster than before with the new LeasyScan; thousands of lines can be characterized in just five weeks.
The newly launched UAV phenotyping platform is expected to make observations of agronomic and stover-related traits, which are labor-intensive and time-consuming to gather in the field, faster and easier. The platform is a result of multiple partnerships through various initiatives/projects. Through the CGIAR’s EiB drone initiative, the Crop Physiology and System Modelling Cluster from our Global Research Program Accelerated Crop Improvement is working on UAV-based phenotyping methods for chickpea, pigeonpea and sorghum. Meanwhile, the ICRISAT team has started work on stover biomass and stover quality (stover nitrogen and digestibility) phenotyping for groundnut and sorghum under the TiHAN (Technology Hub for Autonomous Navigation) Project. The debut drone flight of this project during the inaugural on 3 December marked the launch of the UAV platform.
Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General-Research, ICRISAT, commended the phenotyping team and expressed confidence that the new facilities would take crop improvement at ICRISAT to the next level. Highlighting the importance of these new facilities for crop improvement, Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, acknowledged the support and contribution from collaborators and ICRISAT researchers. At the launch of the facilities with Prof Rajalakshmi from IIT-Hyderabad, who is the Vice-Chairperson of TiHAN, ICRISAT scientists Dr Jana Kholova, Cluster Leader – Crop Physiology and System Modelling; Dr Sunita Choudhary, Scientist, Crop Physiology and System Modelling, and the rest of the Crop Physiology and System Modelling Cluster, Dr Kumar thanked IIT-Hyderabad, Aviac Technologies, Marut Drones and Phenospex for partnering with ICRISAT in these initiatives.
Dr Kholova mentioned that the new facilities make ICRISAT unique in its phenotyping capabilities and announced that these facilities are ready to commence operations.