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Successful funding bids set to identify kiwifruit plant stress and optimise forestry yield

It was a double funding win for PlantTech in the Endeavour Fund. Scientists from Tauranga’s PlantTech Research Institute are celebrating their involvement in two successful funding bids to the Ministry for Business, Innovation & Employment’s (MBIE) Endeavour Fund, Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund. In this year’s round of funding, 69 new scientific research projects were awarded more than $244 million.

Tauranga headquartered PlantTech Research Institute is leading a two-year international project, that will use airborne remote sensors to discover what is causing plant stress in kiwifruit orchards, thanks to a successful bid for $1 million.

Another MBIE-funded project, led by Scion, Seeing the forest for the trees: transforming tree phenotyping for future forests, involves using PlantTech’s capability in hyperspectral imagery analysis to support research that will identify the best genotype to plant in different environments for commercial production and indigenous uses.

A 3D model of radiation transport to enable high yield photosynthetic efficient crops
Research started last month on an airborne remote sensor project, which will determine how a sensor can measure sun-induced fluorescence (SIF) – an indicator of photosynthetic activity and plant stress, such as a lack of water, high temperatures and nutrient deficiency.

Principal Research Scientist Dr Alvaro Orsi is leading the project and explains that data from multiple aerial and ground sensors will be used to generate maps showing kiwifruit photosynthetic activity.

“These maps will help kiwifruit growers understand what regions in their orchards are photosynthesising less efficiently and pinpoint the cause of this plant stress. Such capability will allow growers to improve kiwifruit orchard productivity and environmental sustainability,” says Dr Orsi.

The project will address horticultural challenges by exploiting the use of SIF as a diagnostic of photosynthesis efficiency. Dr Orsi says although SIF has been recognised as a robust probe of photosynthesis activity, traditional techniques to infer and interpret SIF fail to account for the complex structure of the vegetative canopy, thus having a detrimental impact on the calculations.

Click here to read the full press release.

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