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posted by mrpg on Wednesday June 13, @12:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the plant-based-science dept.

New research led by an Iowa State University agronomist identifies clear patterns in how plants react to different environments that could lead to new ways of predicting crop performance.

The research focuses on flowering time in sorghum, a globally cultivated cereal plant, but the results could have implications for nearly all crops, said Jianming Yu, professor of agronomy and the Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. The study, published recently in the peer-reviewed academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on phenotypic plasticity, or the way plant traits respond to environmental factors.

[...] The three geographical regions in the study presented a wide range of environmental conditions, and, at first, the data presented no obvious patterns, he said. But when the researchers zeroed in on "photothermal time," a window of time that's crucial to a plant's development when it processes the environmental cues of sunlight and temperature, everything fell into place.

[...] "Not just the overall performance and its prediction, this represents an elegant framework in which scientists can better understand the intricate dynamics of gene effects, the ups and downs, along this environmental gradient," Yu said.


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Wednesday June 13, @04:43AM

    We had two PhD agronomists - both from Kansas - an engineer who built and operated our camera pods, two coders (one of them the president, the other me) a secretary, two contract pilots and two small airplanes with "FAA approved holes" on the floor just in front of the rear seats.

    Our pods had monochrome video cameras for green and blue visible light, near infrared and far infrared. The far infrared scanner was cooled with liquid nitgrogen.

    For each customer, a plane would fly the camera pod overhead while an agronomist collected samples from the fields in question.

    The camera images were combined in a false-color image. I implemented a more-accurate polygon area calculator than the one that came with SITE - the Streamed Image Transformation Editor that was written by a U of New Mexico grad student. "Streamed" because each SITE executable was a UNIX filter, so you could set up shell scripts containing command pipelines then do something like "$ sun-angle-deshade *.img" to batch process all the pix.

    The agronomists would calculate the expected yield for each color in the false-color image then add them up for that field's total predicted yield.

    One year our head Agronomist Randy Brady pegged the Heinz tomato yield. What that meant for Heinz is that the new just how many of what kind of tomato futures contract to buy on the Chicago Board Of Trade. Your ketchup and spaghetti sauce earned Heinz a better profit that year.

    Among our steady customers were golf courses in Arizona who had to conserve water and so wanted to know just the right time to water their grass. Healthy crops have lower temperatures than crops that need watering and so are not cooled by evaporation anymore.

    One summer I was the only one in the office for a solid month. A park ranger rang me up in the middle of the night to order flights over a forest fire. "I'm sorry sir, but both our planes are booked up."

    "But your ad guarantees a 24-hour turnaround."

    "Both of our planes are flying Yellowstone right now."

    "I understand," he said solemnly, then hung up.

    Instead of the printouts the agronomists would use a Sharpie to circle the hot spots on sheets of transparent plastic taped to a 512-512 pixel graphics display. The planes flew at a certain altitude so as to enable the firefighters to get the right scale when they taped those plastic sheets to US Geological Survey maps.

    Geonex - the highly leveraged "Nation's Largest Mapping Company" - whose classified division was "doing important work" eventually landed on a list of publicly-traded bankruptcies. Before I turned them up there I didn't even know that bankruptcies could be traded!

    They got to be the nation's largest by acquiring every last mom-and-pop aereal photography firm in the entire united states. When they went down they took my former employer and all those once-profitable mom and pop shops with them.

    Now someone is doing the exact same thing with drones. I'm still in touch with the president but haven't yet asked if its him behind those drone camera pods.

    --
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