Project Goal

To generate representative model data in controlled environments for further P2IRC analyses.

Project Summary

Isobel Parkin, Curtis Pozniak, and their team of researchers are focused on growing plants to generate image data in controlled environments such as greenhouses and growing cabinets. These environments allow for all aspects of the plant’s external environment to be manipulated, including key variables such as temperature, humidity, and light (day length and intensity).

Project Results to Date

Within Project 1.1, researchers are working on three main sub-projects. The first two utilize Arabidopsis, often referred to as a Model Plant. Arabidopsis, which is also known as Thale Cress, is closely related to canola, both phenotypically (Figure 1) and at the level of DNA. It earned the title of model plant since it has been used as a research tool for plant genetics since the 1940s, with multiple resources developed to maximize its value.  Perhaps most importantly, Arabidopsis was the first plant to enter the genomics age with the publication of a high quality reference genome sequence in 2000.

In the first sub-project, Arabidopsis is generating data to test multiple imaging techniques and provide model data that can deciphered by colleagues from Theme 3 (Computing). This data will allow the development of a standardized pipeline to align phenotypes (image data) with the underlying genomic information. In the second sub-project, Arabidopsis is being used to study the chemical composition of plant wax synthesis in response to drought stress. This sub-project will explore the novel imaging capacity available at the Canadian Light Source (CLS). The last sub-project focuses on transferring our capabilities to important prairie crops, particularly wheat and canola. This will involve high-throughput imaging of the above and below ground structures of each crop.

Practical Applications

  • The project will generate imaging data, which in association with available genomic data, will provide valuable input for other P2IRC projects in all Themes. The Arabidopsis plant has a short growing cycle, which allows rapid accumulation of data, and the vast amounts of genomic data available for this plant can be readily exploited to link phenotype to genotype.

  • Variable environmental conditions in the field often lead to contradictory data. The project will identify phenotypic markers that can be reproducibly tracked in controlled environments and will be predictive for beneficial phenotypes in the field.

  • Phenotyping a diverse collection of canola and wheat lines will provide valuable information for deciphering complex agronomic traits.  The information will be used to target larger crop populations for further analyses in order to generate markers for yield components, which can be utilized in on-going breeding efforts.


Project 1.1 is an integral part of the collaborative network of P2IRC. The project generates data that is used by many other groups. Some examples of Project 1.1’s collaborations with other P2IRC projects include:

Research Team

Project Leads:


Steve Robinson, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Sina Adil, University of Saskatchewan
Raju Datla, National Research Council