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Plant Physiol. 2017 Aug;174(4):2008-2022. doi: 10.1104/pp.17.00707. Epub 2017 Jun 15.

A High-Throughput, Field-Based Phenotyping Technology for Tall Biomass Crops.

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Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011
Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.
Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.


Recent advances in omics technologies have not been accompanied by equally efficient, cost-effective, and accurate phenotyping methods required to dissect the genetic architecture of complex traits. Even though high-throughput phenotyping platforms have been developed for controlled environments, field-based aerial and ground technologies have only been designed and deployed for short-stature crops. Therefore, we developed and tested Phenobot 1.0, an auto-steered and self-propelled field-based high-throughput phenotyping platform for tall dense canopy crops, such as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). Phenobot 1.0 was equipped with laterally positioned and vertically stacked stereo RGB cameras. Images collected from 307 diverse sorghum lines were reconstructed in 3D for feature extraction. User interfaces were developed, and multiple algorithms were evaluated for their accuracy in estimating plant height and stem diameter. Tested feature extraction methods included the following: (1) User-interactive Individual Plant Height Extraction (UsIn-PHe) based on dense stereo three-dimensional reconstruction; (2) Automatic Hedge-based Plant Height Extraction (Auto-PHe) based on dense stereo 3D reconstruction; (3) User-interactive Dense Stereo Matching Stem Diameter Extraction; and (4) User-interactive Image Patch Stereo Matching Stem Diameter Extraction (IPaS-Di). Comparative genome-wide association analysis and ground-truth validation demonstrated that both UsIn-PHe and Auto-PHe were accurate methods to estimate plant height, while Auto-PHe had the additional advantage of being a completely automated process. For stem diameter, IPaS-Di generated the most accurate estimates of this biomass-related architectural trait. In summary, our technology was proven robust to obtain ground-based high-throughput plant architecture parameters of sorghum, a tall and densely planted crop species.

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