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Building a better potato…

16 May 2018 No Comment

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I am one of the founders of ASD, a brand of Malvern Panalytical, and I currently serve as Chief Technical Officer. 

With their shallow root systems, potatoes are highly susceptible to both drought and heat. Drought reduces both the amount of foliage as well as inducing early leaf senescence. Similarly, heat stress also results in early leaf senescence. Since foliar abundance and function directly impact tuber formation and growth, drought and heat stress negatively impact yields.

Cultivation of potatoes is increasing in regions of the world with climates less conducive to potato cultivation, such as China and India. Thus, there is a growing need for more drought-resistant varieties.

Julia Auber and Folkard Asch of the International Potato Center in Peru teamed up with M. Awais Khan, Evelyn Farfan, Merideth Bonierbale, and Folkard Asch of the Institute of Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Hohenheim in Germany to develop a multi-sensor approach for phenotyping potato varieties for drought tolerance.

They combined two sensors: a thermographic camera to measure canopy temperature and an ASD FieldSpec® spectroradiometer to measure the level of leaf senescence. By combining the two, they were able to infer which potato varieties possessed traits that enabled the potato plants to tolerate drought conditions. While the methods weren’t able to identify the specific drought tolerate traits (such as more deeply developed root systems or leaf level adaptations less likely to experience drought-induced senescence) they were able to rank varieties based on drought tolerance.

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