La Salle-URL engineers collaborate with CRAG biologists to combat the effects of drought on agriculture

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Climate change is accentuating and prolonging drought periods in many regions of the world. This phenomenon is especially relevant in countries where the livelihoods of its population depend heavily on agriculture, for example in sub-Saharan Africa. For this reason, finding out what genetic mechanisms make a rice or maize species more resistant to lack of water can help feed many people.
This is one of the areas of research in the laboratory of Ana Isabel Caño-Delgado Phd, from the Center for Research in Agrigenomics (CRAG).
Crag Since 2011, Xavier Sevillano Phd of the Research Group on Media Technologies (GTM) of La Salle Campus Barcelona collaborates with this researcher, doing research on the border between engineering and plant biology.
The joint research between the two researchers has focused on the development of tools for automatic analysis of plant root images of the Arabidopsis thaliana species, a genetic model used by plant biologists.
Recently, the team formed by the GTM doctors Alejandro González and Xavier Sevillano has culminated in the development of a tool called Root Extraction and Measurement Software (REMS) to measure the length of multiple roots of this type of plant, grown in laboratory environment . Root length is an indicator that biologists use to evaluate aspects related to the viability of each plant specimen, as well as its ability to absorb nutrients, resistance to lack of water, etc.
The developed software, which combines techniques of image processing and artificial intelligence, is able to measure root length with a margin of error of less than 1 millimeter. By doing so automatically, it will allow GRAG Scientists to analyze a greater number of plants in a simple way, extending the scope and reliability of their scientific studies. In addition, it is planned to make this tool available to the entire scientific community in plant biology.
In the future, the multidisciplinary team of engineers and biologists plans to expand the REMS presentations, designing functionalities to measure other parameters of interest of the root, such as their curvature, measure and number of lateral roots, etc. or even monitor growth day by day . Another promising line for this joint research is the integration of this software on a robotic platform for plant phenotyping that the GRAG is designing.

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