Genetically Encoded Biosensors for Plant Water Stress

Creating digital interfaces that allow plants to communicate their needs to humans and automated control systems has the potential to revolutionize agriculture. A system of sensors that can provide a dynamic readout of plant metabolic needs and state of stress is a necessary and currently missing component of this interface. Towards this end, we propose to develop genetically encoded biosensors that provide insight into plant cell stress, including stress related to water deficiency. The proposed sensors are based on a successful design that has been developed for quantifying macromolecular crowding in mammalian cells using FRET (Forster resonance energy transfer) while accounting for spectral interference from the chlorophyll. By overcoming this challenge, we hope this work will help develop sentinel “stress sensor plants” in crop fields can provide a real-time readout of water stress for precise and intelligent irrigation.

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