Significant advances have been made in our understanding of the genes that contribute to crop performance; however, more work is needed to determine how phenotypes or traits emerge from the interaction of genome and environment. To address this question, multidisciplinary research teams representing the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering and the Purdue Polytechnic at Purdue University are developing aerial and ground-based sensor platforms for growth chamber, greenhouse, and field-based studies of the plant phenome. New sensors and sensor platforms, novel georeferencing techniques, and sophisticated image and data analysis methods (e.g., feature extraction, image segmentation) are being developed to quantify variation in plot- and plant-level traits. These measurements provide insights into research plot and field quality, field equipment performance, genotype productivity, physiological plasticity, and spatial variability. Plant breeders are using these and other “omics” tools to address the complex challenges of global food security through collaborative and cross-disciplinary research.
Dr. Mitch Tuinstra is the Wickersham Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Research and Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University. He studies how crop plants grow in stressful environments. Although farmers have faced the challenges of droughts and heat waves for thousands of years, there is mounting concern that changes in our climate may hamper agricultural productivity in the United States and around the world. Dr. Tuinstra and his collaborators are responding to these concerns with efforts to develop "climate resilient" cultivars of maize and sorghum that will contribute to the adaptation of agriculture to warmer and drier environments. His research focuses on identifying genes and genetic resources that contribute to improved crop performance in stressful environments. This work is done in collaboration with scientists and breeders in North America, Africa and Asia.