Leaf movement as a sensor of stress in horticultural crops?

Even when there is no wind, some plants show strong leaf movements throughout the day; this is especially well known in leguminous crops (e.g. bean, pea). These movements are linked to internal rhythms (circadian clock) and entrained by day/night and temperature cycles. These cycles are an important signal for synchronising developmental processes with seasonal changes of day length. Upon certain stresses (e.g. drought, high light), these movements can become stronger or weaker. This means that the extent of such movements could be used as a signal of stress, especially when it is combined with measurements of environmental factors. Cameras in the greenhouse could potentially be used to easily and cheaply monitor leaf movement, and convert this into a signal that the grower can respond to. However, it is not known to what extent horticulturally relevant species (e.g. tomato, cucumber) show leaf movements, and how strongly or quickly does this responds to stress?
In this experiment, you will have the chance to answer this question, by building an imaging setup and by setting up an image analysis pipeline. You may use several different species and some well-defined stresses. Correlating the extent of leaf movement with other traits (such as photosynthesis rate, transpiration rate) is also an option.

Used skills

  • Performing climate chamber experiments
  • Building an imaging setup.
  • Generating an image analysis pipeline.
  • Data analysis.

Interested in doing a BSc or MSc thesis at HPP? Please contact the HPP student coordinator Katharina Hanika.