Crop Biotech Update

Experts Develop Plant Wearables to Measure Water Loss

May 11, 2022

Plants cannot speak up to ask for water when they are thirsty. They only show signs of water loss when they are almost dried up. A study reported in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces presents a new wearable technology that can be used to detect water loss earlier before plants show signs of thirst.

Plant-wearable technology could be used by farmers to monitor their plants' health, particularly the leaf water content, which is an indicator of metabolism and drought stress. In a previous study, the researchers used metal electrodes but these are detached easily, which affect the accuracy of data. Thus, they explored redesigning the electrodes so that they can be used for longer periods of time without getting detached.

The researcher developed two types of electrodes: one made of nickel, and the other cut from partially burnt paper coated with a waxy film. When they attached these electrodes to detached soybean leaves using clear adhesive tape, the nickel-based type proved to be more efficient than the other one. It also adhered to the leaf better. Then, they created a plant-wearable device with metal electrodes and attached it to a living plant in a greenhouse. The device wirelessly transmitted data to a smartphone app and website. These data were converted into water loss percentages using a fast machine learning tool.

The next step for the team is to test the devices in outdoor gardens and farms.

Watch the video or read the news release from the American Chemical Society.

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