December 15, 2020, by Andrew Edwards (Ed)
Rovercam is here! by Lorna McAusland
In July 2020, the Murchie Group at The University of Nottingham took delivery of an exciting new piece of equipment; Rovercam! Measuring over 2 m tall and 1.6 m wide,
Rovercam is designed to be wheeled over plots, imaging in a top-down position.
Designed for large-scale imaging of field plots, Rovercam is an impressive addition to the wealth of equipment available within the Future Food Beacon to screen plants for differences in photosynthesis; the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into the chemical energy required for growth.
Below: The array of LED lights utilised to measure chlorophyll fluorescence. When initiated they can emit up to 4x the light intensity of a sunny day.
Non-invasive and covering a large imaging area, the RoverCam will enable field-based measurements of crops within their environment and throughout the growing season. When combined with other powerful techniques – such as gas exchange and spectral analyses – the Rovercam will allow researchers to obtain a full picture of the response of plants to their environment in a changing climate.
How it works
Rovercam takes images of chlorophyll fluorescence, a powerful measurement technique designed to visualise the efficiency of photosynthesis at a whole-plant scale. This technology can be utilised to not only determine temporal and spatial variation between cultivars of different crops but also identify photosynthetic responses to biotic stresses – such as pathogens (viruses, bacteria and fungi) and pests (herbivory) – and abiotic stresses, such as heat and waterlogging.
Left: An example of image analysis within the software
Right: An image of the maximum quantum efficiency (Fv/Fm) of photosystem two – the first protein complex in the chain of photosynthetic reactions inside the thylakoid – in wheat ears from two cultivars under two temperatures. The higher the value, the greater the efficiency of the photochemistry under specific environmental conditions.
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