Ultimate crop performance despite climate change. Wageningen University & Research has collected existing knowledge and expertise in PhenomicsNL to speed up developments in this field. This will enable partners to strengthen their position on the international market.

Discover Phenomics NL

Click on the markings to see which topics are represented within PhenomicsNL

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1. Insights into plants’ stress responses

Can you measure what happens inside a plant if it gets too warm or receives too little water? Does it begin to produce more or less glucose? And does the variety of plant play a role in this? Identifying answers to these fundamental questions enables us to focus on developing new and/or more resistant crops, in turn saving agriculturalists time and money and enabling them to more effectively respond to market demands.

Wageningen University & Research is studying how model plants respond to drought, heat and other climatic conditions. Insight into these stress responses will lead to improvements in breeding new, resistant varieties. The research is being conducted in special climate chambers such as the Phenovator. Researchers link the results to genetic information.

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2. Measurements on individual plants

Information derived from the inside and outside of a plant, such as its root system or whether a seedling is growing quickly enough, can prove very valuable in determining a plant's viability and stage of development. In light of this, Wageningen University & Research is developing methods to quickly and accurately assess such characteristics. These methods will help agriculturists to specifically select plants that meet their requirements and will enable plant breeders to optimise their cultivation regime, predict the yield and make well-considered decisions regarding the market outlet for a consignment.

From 3D analysis to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)

Researchers at Wageningen employ a variety of non-destructive technologies and techniques to measure individual plants, like a 3D analysis as well as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).


The 3D reconstruction method named MARVIN™ can perform a 3D analysis on plant within a fraction of a second, thereby enabling innovation in the field of vision-operated robotics and high-speed sorting. MARVIN™ rapidly gathers phenotypic data on each seedling and stores this in a database.

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3. Quality inspection in the greenhouse

Be it brown leaves, gnawed stems or shrivelled fruit, plant diseases and vermin can cause serious problems for growers. The incidence of disease also increases as a result of ever stricter regulations in terms of crop protection agents. In the worst cases, the whole crop may fail. Wageningen University & Research develops systems that detect diseases in the greenhouse in their early phases before they are visible to the naked eye. Thanks to this, growers can intervene in good time and prevent the situation from deteriorating. While the primary benefit is that the harvest remains undamaged, using a biological or environmentally friendly crop protection agent is also better for people and the environment.


The Phenobot is a robot that drives through the greenhouse and assesses individual plants in terms of flower and fruit growth, infestations or fungal infections and their response to drought and other climatic conditions. Agriculturalists use the robot to screen their populations, and plant breeders can use the device to predict the scope of the harvest and other aspects.

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4. Measurements in the field (Field phenotyping)

Arable farmers are confronted daily with a series of questions, such as whether their plants require more water or whether they have received sufficient fertilisation. However, given the large-scale nature of modern farms, it is impossible to examine the whole field every day. Wageningen University & Research is developing systems that enable farmers to closely monitor their farm from their own home. Examples include robots that drive independently over the land, gathering data as they do, and drones equipped with 3D sensors and specialist hyperspectral and RGB cameras that are used to produce detailed analyses of individual plants in the field. Wageningen is also developing methods to monitor fields on the basis of satellite data and recordings from aeroplanes, a technique known as ‘aerial imaging’. While this saves arable farmers time, the information it provides equally means that these farmers can more accurately tailor their cultivation regime to the needs of the plant.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are increasingly being used to monitor the development of agricultural crops. This technology is rapidly developing, and its applications are closing the gap between geosensing systems that work via a satellite or from the ground. Read more about the Unmanned Aerial Remote Sensing Facility (UARSF).

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5. Data analysis of plants

Nowadays, we are able to measure all sorts of information on plants, such as their gene expression, metabolism, structure, constituents and fruit ripeness. However, only by means of easily accessible data delivered via web interfaces, apps or other devices are we able to quickly arrive at new insights. With this in mind, Wageningen University & Research is developing
ontologies that help computers to arrange data. It is also working on models that link genetic information to phenotypic data, such as via genome-wide association studies (GWAS). With the aim to analyse genetic variations in different individuals and link specific growth data to specific plant properties or traits (QTLs), these models can also be used to explain aspects such as the growth of the plant and the relation with specific genes, and enable us to respond to these.

SPICY Project is an EU project aiming to develop methods and models to enable agriculturalists to predict the yield and growth of crops under varying cultivation conditions.

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6. Research into the influence of climate

Abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity, nutrient deficiency, heat and cold are a major constraint on crop productivity. In light of this, there is a need for varieties that can limit the damage of stress with minimal or no consequences for yield. To develop varieties capable of this, we need to understand and measure the response of the plant and link this response to yield. Thankfully, however, our ability to measure changes in growth and development, root and shoot architecture and plant physiology, and to combine these changes with state-of-the-art genomics tools, is constantly improving. This means that we can discover new and better plants, determine which properties of these plants contribute to high yields under stress conditions and identify the genes that govern stress tolerance. The improved insight into processes and genes that determine yield under stress conditions enables us to design, develop and select varieties that are more resilient and which produce high yields under the varying conditions of a changing climate.

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7. Research into post-harvest quality preservation

Many suppliers face the daunting task of ensuring a year-round supply of top-quality fruit, vegetables and flowers that need to be sourced from around the globe. Wageningen University & Research conducts research into the smart application of non-destructive measuring techniques, including computer vision techniques, near-infrared spectroscopy, as well as of destructive measurements, in order to research the quality of the product over time. With the knowledge that a product's shelf life is governed by variety, cultivation conditions and chain conditions, growers, manufacturers and retailers can specifically work on quality, reducing loss and making well-considered decisions in terms of market outlets and transport.

Various disciplines are involved in post-harvest research, as well as experts in fresh food chains, post-harvest technology and modelling. Wageningen researchers are developing innovative methods to measure the quality of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers post-harvest and to predict their quality over time. This simplifies the task of making the right logistical decisions.

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PhenomicsNL helps speeding up developments

The global population is growing and fossil fuels are becoming scarce. This is why it is important to grow crops that can be cultivated efficiently and have high yields, whether these are grains, vegetables, fruits or raw materials for bioplastics. But this is easier said than done. The agricultural sector is experiencing the results of climate change all across the globe; from floods in Bangladesh and droughts in the Horn of Africa, to the arrival of new plant diseases in Europe.

Research groups at Wageningen University & Research are currently studying the behaviour of plants at different levels: from model and individual plants to the growth of crops in greenhouses and on the field. Combining all knowledge, expertise and facilities in the field of phenomics into one single PhenomicsNL platform speeds up developments which enable chain partners to strengthen their position on the international market.

Through this platform, Dutch companies will be informed about join large-scale initiatives, like the European ESFRI programme EMPHASIS. This programme develops and/or improves new and existing facilities and makes them widely accessible so that a clear image of the response of crops to climate change can be created through collaboration. EMPHASIS is part of Roadmap 2016 created by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).


Wageningen University & Research has established several public-private partnerships and has been a partner in notable European initiatives such as SPICY, PhenoMenAl and the European Plant Phenotyping Network (EPPN). With PhenomicsNL, Wageningen University & Research is involved in many new programmes including those of the International Plant Phenotyping Network (IPPN), EMPHASIS and EPPN 2020 Horizon.