How plants respond to environmental stress

Biologist Prof. Dr. Amy Marshall-Colon will join PhenoRob as a guest professor in May 2022 for three months.

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award: Plant biologist from the US will conduct research at the University of Bonn next year

What effects does environmentally induced “stress” have on crops, and how can these effects be predicted? Biologist Prof. Dr. Amy Marshall-Colon is working on this question at the University of Illinois in the US – and soon also as a guest professor at the DFG-funded Cluster of Excellence “PhenoRob – Robotics and Phenotyping for Sustainable Crop Production” at the University of Bonn. For the cooperation with her colleagues and the planned research stay in Bonn, she now receives a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, endowed with 45,000 euros. To conduct her research, Amy Marshall-Colon will be in Bonn from May 15-August 15, 2022.

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards around 20 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards to internationally renowned researchers from abroad in recognition of their outstanding research achievements. The award bears the name of the German astronomer and mathematician Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846) and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

New award recipient Amy Marshall-Colon develops models that show how plants respond to environmental perturbations considering their genetic characteristics. “Amy Marshall-Colon’s research activities are outstanding, particularly her achievements in developing mathematical multiscale models to analyze gene-by-environment interactions,” emphasizes Prof. Dr. Frank Ewert, Principal Investigator at the Cluster who has nominated her for the award. The agricultural scientist has already collaborated with the plant biologist.

Among other things, Marshall-Colon investigates how plants take up nitrogen fertilizer even under higher temperatures due to climate change, which then does not end up as a pollutant in the air or water. To that end, she is exploring the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms. Her models are constructed to lead to a better understanding of plant growth processes and to support the breeding of crops that can withstand stressful environments.

Research field is of interest to various disciplines

In recent years, Amy Marshall-Colon has already given various lectures in the context of the PhenoRob Seminar Series and the Cluster’s flagship conference DigiCrop 2020. “What’s special is that her presentations resonated not only with a small group of specialists but also with a wider audience of scientists from diverse disciplines,” says Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Nora Berning. For her, it is clear that Marshall-Colon’s research topic attracts researchers from various fields: genetics, plant biology and crop physiology as well as geodesy, photogrammetry and robotics, soil sciences, and agricultural policy. All these disciplines are represented within PhenoRob – with the overarching goal of exploring new ways to grow crops and manage fields sustainably.

About the person:

Amy Marshall-Colon is Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois in the US and previously conducted research at New York University and Purdue University in West Lafayette (USA). She has already received numerous grants and awards and has published her research results in high-ranking journals for years.

Artificial Intelligence project „RegisTer“ receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)

Image: ©Philipp Lottes/ Pheno-Inspect GmbH

It’s a great day for the PhenoRob research community! Our new partner project “RegisTer” has secured funding from the BMEL for three years, and we are excited about the promising new findings of their work. The interdisciplinary project RegisTer aims to develop automated routines for the characterization and evaluation of sugar beet varieties based on optical/reflective properties of the plants. Sugar beet is an important part of the economic development in rural areas, and the plants have to endure a high tolerance to stress and disease while having a high yield. Thus, modern and better varieties have to be bred. For each newly bred sugar beet variety, an analysis of the sugar beet must be carried out concerning its distinctness from other varieties and its performance and value characteristics over several years and is finally proven by the Bundessortenamt (Federal plant variety office) for approval. The required but time-intensive manual phenotyping work for these tasks could be replaced through the work of “RegisTer,” which aims to implement plant phenotyping pipelines based on Machine Learning techniques using 3D sensors and high-resolution RGB and multispectral images coming from ultralight drones. This brings the potential opportunity to increase the precision and lower the manual work for breeders and the approval process of the Bundessortenamt.

Partner Project “Anticipating Human Behavior” has been extended for second phase

Great news for one of our partner projects! The German Research Foundation extends the research unit 2535 “Anticipating Human Behavior” for three more years. Since 2017, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gall and his team of researchers have been developing methods on how to analyse complex interactions between humans and robots as well as examine new technologies for service robots. Their goal is to create a framework that is able to anticipate human actions and the resulting future situations. Here, you can find out more about the project.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gall on the right

On the Ground and in the Air: Research in PhenoRob Continues despite the Corona Crisis

Field experiments are essential for the quality of agricultural research. Spring is the time of the year when the seeds of the plants for the experimental fields need to be sown, otherwise the researchers will have to wait a whole year until the next vegetation period starts. The sowing of the field crops can be delayed for no more than 4 to 6 weeks. Afterwards the sowing window closes.

Continue reading “On the Ground and in the Air: Research in PhenoRob Continues despite the Corona Crisis”