Robotic technology creates cost-effective method to study Missouri crops

A two-pronged robotic system pioneered by University of Missouri researchers is changing the way scientists study crops and plant phenotyping.

Gui DeSouza, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and his Vision-Guided and Intelligent Robotics (ViGIR) Laboratory have partnered with researchers from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to study the effects of climate change on crops in Missouri. The effort is part of a larger study, funded by the National Science Foundation, to understand the overall effects of climate change in Missouri.

To accurately create 3-D models of plants and collect data both on regions of plants (crops) and individual plants, the research team developed a combination approach of a mobile sensor tower and an autonomous robot vehicle equipped with three levels of sensors and an additional robotic arm. They’re used to complete a complex process called plant phenotyping, which assesses growth, development, yield and items such as tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors by correlating these to physiology and shape of the plants.

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