Measuring leaf angles with new tech

AngleNet

AngleNet is the product of research by North Carolina State University and Iowa State University.

Lirong Xiang

A new piece of technology is in the words that would help take the guess work out of measuring leaf angles.
It’s the product of research out of North Carolina State University and Iowa State University. Leaders there say “AngleNet” will help provide plant breeders with relevant data more quickly.

“The angle of a plant’s leaves, relative to its stem, is important because the leaf angle affects how efficient the plant is at performing photosynthesis,” Lirong Xiang, first author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering at NC State said.
“For example, in corn, you want leaves at the top that are relatively vertical, but leaves further down the stalk that are more horizontal. This allows the plant to harvest more sunlight. Researchers who focus on plant breeding monitor this sort of plant architecture, because it informs their work.However, conventional methods for measuring leaf angles involve measuring leaves by hand with a protractor — which is both time consuming and labor intensive,” Xiang said. “We wanted to find a way to automate this process — and we did.”

AngleNet has two key components, hardware and software.

The hardware consists of a robotic body mounted on wheels. It’s steered manually and is narrow enough to fit between crop rows spaced 30 inches apart. On it are four cameras set to different heights for capturing the different levels of leaves on the plants it passes by.
Each tier of cameras uses 3D technology allowing the user to create a 3D model of the plants.

“We found that the angles measured by AngleNet were within 5° of the angles measured by hand, which is well within the accepted margin of error for purposes of plant breeding,” Xiang said.

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