Plants That Can Tell Farmers What's Bothering Them - Part One
Over the past twenty five years, genetically modified traits have dominated the seed industry of crops like corn and soy focused on pest management. But what if we could code the plant’s DNA so that it signals to the farmer when and how it is stressed? That is the question that drives Shely Aronov and her team at InnerPlant.
Aronov… “Because plants are immobile - they can't move - they have to protect themselves. And what they do is that when they're being attacked, they know how to create on the biological level to protect themselves. And we call these promoters, but these are essentially temporary changes in the plant's RNA. So what's nice is that the plant reacts differently depending on the stress. So it's going to react one way to insects biting it, and a different way to fungus, and a third way to nitrogen deficiency, and so on. And that it happens really fast. The plants start reacting within hours of the emergence of stress. So what we do is we go and we re-code the plants' DNA so that when they're reacting to that stress, they're also going to be generating a protein in their leaves. And the nice thing about the protein is that it creates an optical signal that is easy to collect. So we, as people won't be able to see it because it's invisible, but through optical equipment, we can see the signals from as far as solid imagery and as close as an iPhone in the field.”
InnerPlant is commercializing these traits that will signal stress to farmers.