The Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center was lauded this week as a building in which new technologies from major advancements in plant agriculture will be realized through automated field phenotyping, the process of measuring and analyzing observable plant characteristics.
“We get the exact information of how those genes are expressing themselves. That’s what we call the phenotype. It’s the visible characteristics of that plant. What we do then is we get that data, we put that data together, and try to figure out what are the best plants for different environments. What traits are we not measuring now that are important and will make a big difference in yield for farmers.”
She told HAT a number of key elements come together to make the building such an enhanced space for their research.
“It is the space itself. There are areas where we need a modern facility to work in. In addition, much of this equipment is customized for our researchers, so it’s really state of the art. We developed it with flexibility so we can change out equipment as it develops. It’s also the technology, and one of the things this space does that we don’t do in that many other spaces is really allow us to build these multidisciplinary teams.”
The former chief executive of the Indiana corn and soybean checkoff organizations that helped fund the new center, Chris Novak, is now the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. He attended the dedication and told HAT Purdue and Indiana are now at the forefront of what needs to be a national push.
“One of the reasons I wanted to be here today is at a national level we’re reaching out and we’re talking to soybean associations, and the cotton farmers, fruit and vegetable growers in California and Florida, because we know that there needs to be a federal phenotyping effort if we truly want to look at not just solving hunger but also as we develop plants that can help us with other nutritional issues like obesity.”
Just steps away from the new center dedication, at the Beck Ag Center, the North American Plant Phenotyping Network was holding its inaugural convening event. Plaut said they anticipated 40 people would attend the meeting but registration was closed when they reached 170. Phenotyping was being discussed by representatives of 11 different countries, 34 companies, 30 academic institutions and 19 federal agencies. This network startup follows Europe and international networks already established and addressing plant phenotyping. Data collected at Purdue will be important to the North American network, and the dedication of the center was certainly an attraction for their very first meeting.