About This Theme

Digital technologies are transforming agriculture, making a farm’s field operations more insight driven and efficient. In order to advance the field of digital agriculture and create better plants, plant breeders need imaging data. The emergence of high-throughput advanced imaging methods has yielded new opportunities to gather structural and functional data from plants. Theme 2 is focused on using these advanced or unusual forms of technology to image plants beyond normal imaging capabilities.

Some of these advanced imaging methods include:

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning which shows how a plant’s tissues are functioning;

  • Phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) which is more sensitive to density than conventional X-rays;

  • Fluorescence imaging using synchrotron light to perform element-specific imaging of tissues to help determine their functional role;

  • K-Edge Subrtraction imaging in which structural and functional images are simultaneously produced from synchrotron light based on a contrast element that is used as a biomarker that highlights some aspect of the function of the plant; and

  • Mass spectrometry (MS) of plant tissues which measures the distribution of biomolecules in tissues.

The main benefit of using these processes to image plants is that they are non-destructive – the plant is not physically cut which means it can be studied for the duration of its life cycle.

To conduct this research, P2IRC researchers are working in collaboration with the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS), and Chalk River Nuclear Facilities. Much of this research is being conducted in collaboration with Theme 3, Computational Informatics of Crop Phenotyping Data, which will further develop advanced methods for gathering data which can be applied to plant breeding.

The following research projects are currently underway within the Image Acquisitions Theme:

Project 2.1

Application of Advanced Imaging Technologies to Relate Phenotype to Genotype

This research project hopes to revolutionize plant breeding and develop sustainable agriculture by studying a plant’s response to environmental stress, wax production, and underground interactions with microorganisms in the soil.


Project 2.2

Field-Based High-Throughput Phenotyping Mobile Systems for Crop Monitoring

This project is focused on developing a robotic platform that will monitor crop health and collect imaging data.


Project 2.3

High-Throughput Data Acquisition for 3D Structural Imaging and Characterization of Plant Phenotypes

This research will develop and utilize powerful tools to view and understand plant roots and interactions taking place below ground.