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$25M Center Will Use Digital Tools to 'Communicate' With Plants


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Cornell Professor Susan  McCouch

Cornell Professor of Computational Biology Susan McCouch is Principal Investigator of the Center for Research On Programmable Plant Systems project.

Credit: Cornell University

A multi-institution, transdisciplinary center will develop systems for two-way communication with plants, allowing scientists to remotely sense a plant's biology and its immediate ecosystem, in hopes of one day using the information to improve plant growth.

The new Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS), funded by a five-year, $25 million National Science Foundation grant, aims to grow a new field called digital biology.

CROPPS, which involves researchers from Cornell, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Arizona, will develop technologies connected to the Internet and the cloud to listen to and learn how plants sense and respond to their environments. The ultimate goal is two-way communication, where scientists receive information and respond to what a plant needs, or to work with the plant's genetics to affect physical outcomes.

"At the heart of this project are plants endowed with new ways of expressing biological processes — including hidden processes that occur inside tissues or underground — through a readable signal that we can develop technologies to capture," says CROPPS co-principal investigator Abraham Stroock.

From Cornell Chronicle
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