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Crop Biotech Update

DARPA Explores on Using Plants to Detect Security Threats

November 29, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense announced the conduct of a new project that explores on the potential of plants to be used in next-generation surveillance technology. 

The project, called Advanced Plant Technologies, focuses on engineering robust, plant-based sensors that are self-sustaining in their environment and can be remotely monitored using existing hardware. The main objective of the project is to boost the natural stimulus response mechanisms in plants to detect the presence of specific chemicals, pathogens, radiation, as well as electromagnetic signals.

DARPA plans to use genome editing, a technology that has shown promising results in other plants. "Plants are highly attuned to their environments and naturally manifest physiological responses to basic stimuli such as light and temperature, but also in some cases to touch, chemicals, pests, and pathogens," said Blake Bextine, Program Manager of APT. "Emerging molecular and modeling techniques may make it possible to reprogram these detection and reporting capabilities for a wide range of stimuli, which would not only open up new intelligence streams, but also reduce the personnel risks and costs associated with traditional sensors," he added.

Read the news release from DARPA for more details.