Field Phenomics is the main site for the project "A field-based high-throughput phenotyping platform for plant genetics" funded through the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program.

Project team:

Jesse Poland, PI, USDA-ARS, Kansas State University; Kevin Price, CoPI, KSU; Michael Gore, Collaborator, USDA-ARS; Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, Collaborator, University of Arizona; Allan Fritz, Collaborator, KSU; Randy Price, Collaborator, KSU; Jeff White, Collaborator, USDA-ARS; Andrew French, Collaborator, USDA-ARS; Kelly Thorp, Collaborator, USDA- ARS; William Schapaugh, Collaborator, KSU; Stephen Welch, Collaborator, KSU; Naiqian Zhang, Collaborator, KSU

Scientific Objectives and Intellectual Merit

The essence of plant biology is to understand the link between genetic variation and observed phenotypes. The association of DNA polymorphisms with phenotypes on a genome- wide scale and dissection of the genetic architecture of complex traits on a species-wide level requires accurate phenotyping of large populations along with genome-wide molecular markers. Genotyping can now be accomplished with low-cost, high-throughput assays and sequencing. Phenotyping, on the other hand, is labor intensive and has become the limiting factor in plant biology studies and crop improvement programs. Platforms for high-throughput phenotyping (HTP), particularly in field environments, are needed to compliment the wealth of genomic information in plant genetics. This project will develop transformational capacity for field-based HTP by creating platforms for rapid assessment of multiple quantitative plant traits. Proximal sensing tools and GPS referencing will be integrated to develop mobile platforms that are low- cost, flexible, robust, and amenable for a range of species. A central premise of this work is that integrating streams of data from multiple types of sensors will increase both the accuracy and number of traits that can be quantified for field grown plants. Thus, a second objective is to develop novel algorithms for analyzing HTP data to quantitatively estimate phenotypes expressed in field environments. The newly developed sensor systems, indexes, and algorithms will be applied in test cases that examine multiple quantitative traits in wheat, soybean and cotton.

Broader Impacts

Over the last decade, continuous improvements in genotyping technology, especially sequencing platforms, have radically increased the amount of genotypic data available, while lowering costs per datum. In contrast, phenotyping of large populations for multiple traits in multi-environment field trials remains costly and laborious, especially for dynamic traits that are repeatedly measured during the life cycle of a plant. To truly enable 21st century biology in the genomic and information age, HTP platforms must be developed with the capacity to quantitatively assess thousands to millions of plant phenotypes. Such platforms will compliment the explosion of genomic information currently being collected and will enable field level experimental biology on a scale that has not been previously possible. New platforms can also expand the germplasm evaluations in plant improvement programs and thus directly benefit attempts to address the challenges of increasing food, feed, and fiber production in the face of growing populations, decreasing arable land area and global climate change. This project will focus on field-based assessment of economically important crop species that represent very different plant types and production systems, helping to ensure broad applicability of the platforms and associated analytic methods to a range of target environments and species, and scalability for larger studies. The tools and methods developed will be transferred to the plant genetics and crop improvement communities through hands-on training workshops, student internships, a project website and Internet-based resource for training materials, equipment designs and software. HTP workshops and an international symposium will be hosted to promote technology dissemination nationally and internationally. This project will provide training for graduate and postgraduate scholars while hosting multiple internships for undergraduate engineering and plant science students in the exciting field of HTP.