Drone take-off over Sorghum field at the Kearny Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier CA


In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in our ability to sequence large amounts of DNA in a cost-effective manner. However, phenotyping, that is, collecting measurements on plant traits (e.g., height, yield, biomass) has remained time-consuming and costly. "Phenomics" is a catch-all term for new phenotyping strategies that aim to make phenotype collection as precise, fast, and cost-effective as DNA sequencing. Phenomics is an exciting and important new avenue of research in the field of plant genomics -- because without high quality phenotype data, DNA sequence information is of very little use! 

At the Joint Genome Institute, I am part of a large multi-group project in which we are phenotyping a diverse collection of Sorghum varieties using a specialized drone developed by Blue River Technology. The drone is flown over the field in order to collect high-precision trait measurements that would not be possible to collect by hand. We will then use these data to identify genes and Sorghum varieties that can be used to improve grain yields and sorghum-based biofuel production.