Federal Minister of Research and Education Visits PhenoRob

As part of her visit to the University of Bonn, PhenoRob had the chance to present its research to the German Minister of Research and Education, Anja Karliczek, along with the other five Clusters of Excellence at the University of Bonn. At the university’s Nutzpflanzengarten at Campus Popppelsdorf, PhenoRob, led by spokespersons Heiner Kuhlmann and Cyrill Stachniss, had the chance to demonstrate our UAVs and experimental robots for monitoring and targeted weed control in crop production. Karliczek was especially impressed by the technology the core projects brought along: CP4’s robot, usually used in PhenoRob’s central experiment at Campus Klein-Altendorf, additionally to two drones. “I am very happy that the important topic of sustainable agriculture is part of the funding within the German Excellence Strategy,” says Karliczek.

© Volker Lannert

International Summer School – 100 Applications from 30 Countries

PhenoRob’s Call for Applications for the International Summer School travelled the world. At the end of the deadline on June 15, we had received 100 applications from 30 countries. This is a remarkable success.

From Canada to Japan, Peru to Nepal, Finland to South Africa people are interested in Agricultural Robotics and so applied to attend the 5 day event, taking part online from August 24-28. Besides interesting workshops on the topic of Agricultural Robotics, there will be networking sessions and socializing events. People from all over the world will get together to exchange ideas on the topic, to interact and to make PhenoRob globally known. We are excited to see the international community of PhenoRob growing.

PhenoRob Junior Group Research Leader Wins Argelander Starter-Kit Grant

Marija Popovic receives funding in the amount of 13.700€ from the University of Bonn for her postdoctoral project

The Argelander Starter-Kit Grant is a central pillar of the University of Bonn’s Argelander Program for Young Academics and is designed to support young and emerging researchers in their academic careers after their PhDs. This grant especially helps postdocs fund material resources to support research activities and a comprehensive advisory program for writing a third-party funding proposal and preparing for an academic career. The program also offers individual consultations to fully prepare postdoctoral researchers for the continuation of their academic careers.

Frank Ewert on “Reuters Hot List”

In April the global news agency Reuters published their list of the world’s 1000 most influential climate scientists. Frank Ewert is among the top 100.

The framework for identifying the most influential climate researchers goes back to an idea of the data journalist Maurice Tamman who created a list using a combination of three rankings. These are based on the number of publications on topics related to climate change, the number of their citations and the attention the researchers and their work have received in public policy papers, the lay press and through social media. Frank Ewert is one of the world’s top 100 climate influencers and among the top 10 in Germany.

Reuters Hot List

Call for Applications for the PhenoRob International Summer School 2021

Agricultural production of crops as a source of food and energy faces enormous challenges: on the one hand, yields must be increased to meet the needs of a growing global population, on the other hand, the available arable land is shrinking, the effects of climate change are already noticeable in many places, and the ecological footprint of crop production must be reduced. Digital technologies such as agrorobotics in particular have the potential to make a significant contribution to overcoming these challenges through optimized observation, analysis and intervention.

The deadline for applications is June 15, 2021.

The PhenoRob Excellentcluster of the University of Bonn is inviting applications for the PhenoRob International Summer School 2021 on “Agricultural Robotics”, which will take place from Tue. 24 to Sat. 28 August, 2021 as a digital event.  Advanced master students and early doctoral students (first year) are invited to apply. The summer school will be held in English.

Please see the call for applications for further information on the event, the terms of participation, and information on the application process on:

https://agrirobotics.wordpress.com/

WeedAI: automatically evaluating weeding methods

PhenoRob partner project “WeedAI” receives funding from BMEL for 3 years.

The importance of novel methods for weed control is rapidly growing, however, evaluating the effectiveness of these technologies is lacking. “Weed AI” is working on methods to rapidly and autonomously evaluate the efficacy of weeding systems. Based on core deep learning (AI) methods for plant recognition, this project will develop vision-based methods to automatically assess the effectiveness of weeding operations (both weed and crop). Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), it is hoped that this project will contribute to assessing new weeding technologies and improve uptake of these new technologies.

PhytoMo-Project to Protect Against Phytoplasm

260.000 Euros for PhenoRob Partner Project from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Globalization does not only mean more mobility for humans, but also – unfortunately – for pests and parasites. One of these new plant diseases in Germany is “Flavescence dorée”, a phytoplasma disease of the vine that has become a growing threat for our vineyards here. To battle this, the project “PhytoMo” sets out to identify diseased vines early on, using a multispectral image processing system. These can be used on the ground, but also in the air. At the University of Bonn, the project is led by Prof. Dr. Heiner Kuhlmann and Dr. Lasse Klingbeil and has been recognized as a Partner Project of Core Project 1 “4D Crop Reconstruction” in the Cluster of Excellence “PhenoRob”.

“In this project, we will watch the vines closely to detect this disease early on,” says Klingbeil. “We will use sensors to observe them in great detail and this is where ‘PhytoMo’ fits in with the research conducted in PhenoRob.” The project is a collaborative effort of the Julius Kühn-Institut, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation (IOSB), University of Bonn, RLP AgroScience GmbH, LOGXON Gmbh & Co. KG and the State Education and Research Institute for Viticulture and Pomology Weinsberg. It is part of the Federal Ministry’s initiative to combat introduction and importation of regulated and new organisms harmful to plants.

Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, presents Dr. Lasse Klingbeil with the approval for funding. Photo: BMEL/Photothek/Schmitz

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