Counting and measuring the length of leaves on a barley plant sounds simple enough. But try doing it on hundreds of plants on a daily basis, something you would need to do if you are trying to identify the genes controlling leaf initiation and leaf elongation.
A significant breakthrough has been made by a team from the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Precinct, the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and KAUST. With only a handful of images, the team was able to create 3D models of barley plants that allowed tracking of individual leaves over time and measurement of their length on a daily basis. This novel approach was then applied by the plant scientists in the team to identify genetic regions in barley associated with changes in leaf growth in response to salinity.
While previous studies have analysed total shoot growth in response to various stresses, analysing individual leaves at high-throughput on a plant like barley, with thin, long and twisting leaves, is a first.
The novel approach developed has been tested on wheat and barley and will allow researchers to get a better understanding of the genetic regulation of leaf length and leaf number under various conditions for these important crops.