Researchers from the University of Illinois set up twelve-foot metal poles with long outstretched arms in a Midwestern soybean field to monitor an invisible array of light emitted by crops. This light can provide information on the plants’ photosynthetic performance during growing season, according to their study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.
“Photosynthetic performance is a key trait to monitor as it directly translates to yield potential,” said Kaiyu Guan, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and the principal investigator of this research. “This method enables us to rapidly and nondestructively monitor how well plants perform in various conditions like never before.” The research team collected sun-induced fluorescence (SIF) data using hyperspectral sensors to determine how soybean plants respond to fluctuating light levels and environmental stresses. With the measurements categorized by plant growth stages, light conditions, and time scales, the results confirmed that there is a strong positive relationship between photosynthesis and SIF.