Flash of Light Reads Health of CropsField of beams
Novel system uses polarized light pulses to reveal crop health
By firing rapid pulses of polarized light at corn, spinach and other crops, researchers have uncovered a picture of plant health that is invisible to the naked eye. Using a portable light source and detector technology, the researchers can differentiate minute differences in leaf colors - indicators of over- or under-fertilization, crop-nutrient levels and perhaps even disease.
The researchers hope their tractor-mountable N-Checker (for "nitrogen-checker") apparatus will help farmers determine in real time how much fertilizer to apply. By preventing waste, the system could decrease the cost of crop production and dramatically cut the nitrogen-laden runoff responsible for algal blooms and other damage to wetlands and waterways.
Steve Finkelman, Paul Nordine and their colleagues at Containerless Research, Inc. of Evanston, Ill., Louise Egerton-Warburton and partners at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and graduate student Tim Smith of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will present their new technology July 19 at the InfoAg 2005 Conference in Springfield, Ill.
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