Shared Research Facilities (SRF) of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has recently purchased a new mobile device suitable to automatically phenotype plants. The company Photon Systems Instruments (PSI) from the Czech Republic has developed the Robin PSI PlantScreenTM system based on specific requirements set by WUR. It has been installed at WUR’s location Unifarm, and it is the first device that has arrived as part of the new Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre (NPEC).
NPEC is a national facility we are developing, approved and funded by NWO (www.wur.eu/npec). This means that the Robin PSI is open to academic users as well as industrial partners, upon consultation with Rick van de Zedde. To encourage usage, this device is available and no costs will be charged until the end of this year.
The Robin PSI PlantScreenTM system is a stand-alone device and can be used to digitally ‘phenotype’ individual plants in pots up to 50 cm plant height or trays with max. 20 small plants, for instance Arabidopsis for a range of traits. The Robin PSI can be easily transferred to a climate room or a greenhouse compartment, to accommodate easy access from running experiments. The Robin PSI is equipped with three sensors:
- A chlorophyll fluorescence (CF) imaging unit for dark-adapted photosystem II (PSII) efficiency measurements.
- A red-green-blue (RGB) imaging unit, with top-view and multiple side view options.
- A 3D laser triangulation scanning unit for 3D reconstruction images.
This device is an easy-to-use tool to find out what digital phenotyping has to offer. The main purpose of the Robin PSI is to perform small-scale feasibility tests, in order to prepare for future, larger research projects. In the coming years many more phenotyping devices will be installed as part of NPEC, in which similar and other imaging technologies will be integrated on a larger scale, with higher throughput and additional sensors.
Digital phenotyping offers potential
One of the reasons this device was developed is that digital phenotyping is much faster than the labour-intensive manual phenotyping currently still widely applied, also within WUR. While objective data can be collected quickly, the way phenotypes are measured may be difficult to compare to current-day practices. We encourage you to contact us and make an appointment for a demo of our new Robin PSI to discuss your options.
Depending on which sensors you use and the size of the plants, a measurement will take a few to several minutes per plant. If you want to use the CF unit, you will need to take into account that a dark adaptation period is needed, which takes five to max twenty minutes per plant.
The Robin PSI is able to collect the following physiological and morphological data: max PSII efficiency, biomass, volume, project leaf area per individual leaf, main stem length, plant height, number of leaves, internode lengths, colour, etc. Upon capturing the images, it stores the raw data (segmented and 3D point cloud), and all CF and RGB images, for further analysis by other tools.
One of the research topics suitable for this technology is to study the influence of environment (E) on the phenotype (P) of the genotypes (G) that are tested (P = G + E), and for small plants, GxE can be investigated, if plants are exposed to different (a)biotic environmental conditions (e.g., salt, drought, heat or pathogen/herbivore stresses).