Past and Future of Plant Stress Detection: An Overview From Remote Sensing to Positron Emission Tomography

Angelica Galieni, Nicola D'Ascenzo, Fabio Stagnari, Giancarlo Pagnani, Qingguo Xie, Michele Pisante

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Plant stress detection is considered one of the most critical areas for the improvement of crop yield in the compelling worldwide scenario, dictated by both the climate change and the geopolitical consequences of the Covid-19 epidemics. A complicated interconnection of biotic and abiotic stressors affect plant growth, including water, salt, temperature, light exposure, nutrients availability, agrochemicals, air and soil pollutants, pests and diseases. In facing this extended panorama, the technology choice is manifold. On the one hand, quantitative methods, such as metabolomics, provide very sensitive indicators of most of the stressors, with the drawback of a disruptive approach, which prevents follow up and dynamical studies. On the other hand qualitative methods, such as fluorescence, thermography and VIS/NIR reflectance, provide a non-disruptive view of the action of the stressors in plants, even across large fields, with the drawback of a poor accuracy. When looking at the spatial scale, the effect of stress may imply modifications from DNA level (nanometers) up to cell (micrometers), full plant (millimeters to meters), and entire field (kilometers). While quantitative techniques are sensitive to the smallest scales, only qualitative approaches can be used for the larger ones. Emerging technologies from nuclear and medical physics, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, are expected to bridge the gap of quantitative non-disruptive morphologic and functional measurements at larger scale. In this review we analyze the landscape of the different technologies nowadays available, showing the benefits of each approach in plant stress detection, with a particular focus on the gaps, which will be filled in the nearby future by the emerging nuclear physics approaches to agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609155
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - Jan 27 2021


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