Deploying a proximal sensing cart to identify drought-adaptive traits in upland cotton for high-throughput phenotyping

Alison L. Thompson, Kelly R. Thorp, Matthew Conley, Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, John T. Heun, John M. Dyer, Jeffery W. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Field-based high-throughput phenotyping is an emerging approach to quantify difficult, time-sensitive plant traits in relevant growing conditions. Proximal sensing carts represent an alternative platform to more costly high-clearance tractors for phenotyping dynamic traits in the field. A proximal sensing cart and specifically a deployment protocol, were developed to phenotype traits related to drought tolerance in the field. The cart-sensor package included an infrared thermometer, ultrasonic transducer, multi-spectral reflectance sensor, weather station, and RGB cameras. The cart deployment protocol was evaluated on 35 upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) entries grown in 2017 at Maricopa, AZ, United States. Experimental plots were grown under well-watered and water-limited conditions using a (0,1) alpha lattice design and evaluated in June and July. Total collection time of the 0.87 hectare field averaged 2 h and 27 min and produced 50.7 MB and 45.7 GB of data from the sensors and RGB cameras, respectively. Canopy temperature, crop water stress index (CWSI), canopy height, normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI), and leaf area index (LAI) differed among entries and showed an interaction with the water regime (p < 0.05). Broad-sense heritability (H2) estimates ranged from 0.097 to 0.574 across all phenotypes and collections. Canopy cover estimated from RGB images increased with counts of established plants (r = 0.747, p = 0.033). Based on the cart-derived phenotypes, three entries were found to have improved drought-adaptive traits compared to a local adapted cultivar. These results indicate that the deployment protocol developed for the cart and sensor package can measure multiple traits rapidly and accurately to characterize complex plant traits under drought conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number507
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018


  • Abiotic stress
  • High-throughput phenotyping
  • Plant breeding
  • Proximal sensing carts
  • Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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