Electronic patch to monitor pathogens and stresses in crops

Electronic patch to monitor pathogens and stresses in crops

From the report “Multifunctional Patch Offers Early Detection of Plant Diseases, Other Crop Threats“, of Matt Shipman, published in NC State University News.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed an electronic patch that can be applied to the leaves of plants to monitor crops for different pathogens – such as viral and fungal infections – and stresses such as drought or salinity.

Plants emit different combinations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) under different circumstances. By targeting VOCs that are relevant to specific diseases or plant stress, the sensors can alert users to specific problems.

In testing, the researchers found the patch was able to detect a viral infection in tomatoes more than a week before growers would be able to detect any visible symptoms of disease.

The researchers say they are two steps away from having a patch that growers can use. First, they need to make the patches wireless – a relatively simple challenge. Second, they need to test the patches in the field, outside of greenhouses, to ensure the patches will work under real-world conditions.