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

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.

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.