Smartphone-based portable device identifies plant diseases on the spot
New technology that could help farmers quickly spot diseases in plants using smartphones has been developed by researchers.
The handheld device for identifying problems with crops, which was designed at North Carolina State University, can be plugged into a mobile phone and used to analyse compounds that plants release through their leaves.
Diagnosing diseases in plants currently takes “days or weeks” as samples have to be sent to a lab for a molecular analysis to take place.
Jean Ristaino, a professor of plant pathology at North Carolina State University, said, “Our technology will help farmers identify diseases more quickly, so they can limit the spread of the disease and related crop damage.”
To use the technology, a farmer would have to place a leaf from a plant they suspect of being diseased into a capped test tube for 15 minutes to catch compounds released while it breathes.
The gas from the test tube can then be pumped into a reader device, which contains a paper strip embedded with chemicals that can change colour to identify specific diseases.
Once plugged into a smartphone, the user can see the readings with a camera app.
Earlier this year, some of the same scientists announced a DNA-gathering microneedle patch, that could be pressed against plants’ leaves in order to quickly detect diseases.