To feed over 9 billion people by 2050, we will have to do things differently. Ongoing reduction in arable land and worsening climate conditions are going to make things even more challenging. Prescriptive Agriculture holds the promise of a solution, by harnessing the advances in Crop Improvement (high throughput phenotyping) and Production Optimization (precision agriculture) - together.
High-throughput plant phenotyping (HTP) sits at the intersection of genetics, sensors and robotics. It is used to develop new varieties or “lines” of a crop to improve characteristics such as nutritive content, drought resistance and pest tolerance. HTP employs multiple sensors to measure important physical characteristics of plants, such as height; leaf number, size, shape, angle, color, wilting; stalk thickness; number of fruiting positions. These are examples of phenotypic traits, the physical expression of a plant’s genetic codes. Scientists can compare these measurements to already-known genetic markers for a particular plant variety.
Ever improving sensors are making data collection in Agriculture a reality. Unmanned aerial vehicles, infrared thermometers, ultrasonic transducers, spectral radiometers, you name it. However, combining the disparate datasets collected by different sensors - videos, images, sounds, text and numbers, often with different spatial and temporal resolutions - remains a daunting challenge and a roadblock to achieving the promise of precision agriculture.