3 years ago

UAV-Based Thermal Imaging for High-Throughput Field Phenotyping of Black Poplar Response to Drought.

Tauro, Ludovisi, Mugnozza Scarascia, Khoury, Harfouche, Salvati
Poplars are fast-growing, high-yielding forest tree species, whose cultivation as second-generation biofuel crops is of increasing interest and can efficiently meet emission reduction goals. Yet, breeding elite poplar trees for drought resistance remains a major challenge. Worldwide breeding programs are largely focused on intra/interspecific hybridization, whereby Populus nigra L. is a fundamental parental pool. While high-throughput genotyping has resulted in unprecedented capabilities to rapidly decode complex genetic architecture of plant stress resistance, linking genomics to phenomics is hindered by technically challenging phenotyping. Relying on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based remote sensing and imaging techniques, high-throughput field phenotyping (HTFP) aims at enabling highly precise and efficient, non-destructive screening of genotype performance in large populations. To efficiently support forest-tree breeding programs, ground-truthing observations should be complemented with standardized HTFP. In this study, we develop a high-resolution (leaf level) HTFP approach to investigate the response to drought of a full-sib F2 partially inbred population (termed here 'POP6'), whose F1 was obtained from an intraspecific P. nigra controlled cross between genotypes with highly divergent phenotypes. We assessed the effects of two water treatments (well-watered and moderate drought) on a population of 4603 trees (503 genotypes) hosted in two adjacent experimental plots (1.67 ha) by conducting low-elevation (25 m) flights with an aerial drone and capturing 7836 thermal infrared (TIR) images. TIR images were undistorted, georeferenced, and orthorectified to obtain radiometric mosaics. Canopy temperature (Tc) was extracted using two independent semi-automated segmentation techniques, eCognition- and Matlab-based, to avoid the mixed-pixel problem. Overall, results showed that the UAV platform-based thermal imaging enables to effectively assess genotype variability under drought stress conditions. Tc derived from aerial thermal imagery presented a good correlation with ground-truth stomatal conductance (gs) in both segmentation techniques. Interestingly, the HTFP approach was instrumental to detect drought-tolerant response in 25% of the population. This study shows the potential of UAV-based thermal imaging for field phenomics of poplar and other tree species. This is anticipated to have tremendous implications for accelerating forest tree genetic improvement against abiotic stress.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01681

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01681

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