With the latest phenotyping tools available at ICRISAT, crop breeding speed, precision, and labour cost savings are all conceivable. Breeders can now strive for flexible research pipelines that can adapt to a quickly changing environment.
Climate change has increased in the last decade, threatening the existence of fragile people in the semi-arid tropics.
To promote food sustainability for a growing global population, research organisations around the world must develop climate-adapted crops and double agricultural improvement rates by 2030.
Crop variety development is a time-consuming and costly process that can take up to a decade. Thousands of prospective variants must be assessed during this process.
Traditionally, this evaluation process, known as plant phenotyping, was done visually or manually. However, standard approaches are largely inadequate at collecting crops’ climate-smart features.
ICRISAT and Phenospex have worked together to create a phenotyping platform that captures the behaviour of climate-smart crops at a scale appropriate for breeding programmes. This improved platform, known as LeasyScan, is outfitted with cutting-edge technologies such as PlantEye (F600) and FieldScales.
PlantEye is a cutting-edge sensor-based device that evaluates plant canopy properties by combining the capability of multispectral imagery with 3D vision.
LeasyScan is currently being used to evaluate thousands of breeding lines, a task that would have previously required an army of breeders and field employees to complete manually over multiple cropping seasons. These evaluations can be completed in a matter of weeks, correctly, non-destructively, and affordably, using LeasyScan.
Breeders and seed businesses all over the world use ICRISAT services to rapidly create climate-resilient crops for high-risk production areas. Researchers and gene banks characterise crop material and produce information and resources for research-driven action to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.
Prof Ji Vank, Head of Department, Information Technologies, Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, believes that the new ventures in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that ICRISAT is pursuing with tech universities in Prague and Delft, the International Plant Phenotyping community, and companies like Phenospex have enormous potential.
Dr Sunita Choudhary, Senior Researcher, Crop Physiology and Modelling at ICRISAT, believes that if implemented carefully, emerging technology solutions can help researchers mitigate some of the negative effects of climate change.
Breeding populations of cereals such as sorghum or pearl millet can now be swiftly supplemented with “stay-green” traits thanks to these new technology-assisted crop enhancement approaches.