Phenomics at the Arkansas Center for Plant Powered Production

Manual phenotyping of large sets of plants requires a great deal of resources and expertise and is typically not feasible for detection of subtle phenotypes. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop quantitative, reproducible, and highly automated phenotyping systems to analyze large numbers of plants.

Manual phenotyping of large sets of plants requires a great deal of resources and expertise and is typically not feasible for detection of subtle phenotypes. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop quantitative, reproducible, and highly automated phenotyping systems to analyze large numbers of plants.

Recognizing this need the Arkansas Center for Plant Powered Production (P3; www.plantpoweredproduction.com) funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR Program recently acquired a Scanalyzer HTS instrument. This is a powerful high throughput phenotyping platform until now only available in the USA to large biotech companies. This instrument housed at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI) at Arkansas State University (ASU), is available to all P3-affiliated scientists in Arkansas and to other users in the USA via a fee for service agreement. The Scanalyzer HTS is equipped with visible, fluorescence, near infrared, and laser cameras allowing unbiased, non-invasive, automated, and effective screening of plant phenotypes, particularly of small plants.

Multiple P3- affiliated groups are already incorporating the power of the Scanalyzer HTS in their experimental design as a critical tool for new discoveries. The Lorence Laboratory is using the visible camera of the instrument to quantify the effect of enhancing vitamin C content on the growth and biomass accumulation of various plant species including Arabidopsis, tobacco, and rice. The fluorescence and near infrared cameras are allowing them to quantify the effect of various stresses on the chlorophyll and water content of large numbers of plants, respectively. The first peer-reviewed manuscript including data acquired with the Scanalyzer HTS at ASU-Jonesboro was recently published: Avila CA, Arévalo-Solíz ML, Lorence A, Goggin FL (2013) Expression of ?-DIOXYGENASE 1 in tomato and Arabidopsis contributes to plant defenses against aphids. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 26(8):977-986.

The synergy between the Scanalyzer HTS system available at ASU-Jonesboro and the Scanalyzer 3D soon to be installed at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) has allowed us to secure competitive funding via the NSF Plant Genome Program: “Physiological and Genetic Mechanisms Underlying Salt Tolerance in Rice Across Developmental Stages” H Walia (UNL, PI), AJ Lorenz, A Samal, D Wang (UNL, Co-PIs), and A Lorence (ASU, Co-PI).

Additional applications of the Scanalyzer HTSs being pursued include: a) Screening of plant cultures capable of synthesizing phenolic compounds, b) quality control assessment of seeds expressing recombinant proteins, and c) quantification of the potential of regeneration of various rice varieties growing in tissue culture. We envision the application of this powerful phenomics tool in many other aspects of plant science in the near future.

Our progress has been possible thanks to the excellent partnership and interaction we have established with the leadership and the highly skilled technical staff from LemnaTec.