Hi Fidelity Genetics has successfully deployed nearly a thousand of its root sensing devices. The trial marks a major milestone in HFG's development of its RootTracker technology. Previous efforts have focused on design refinements. This is the first effort dedicated to measuring root system architecture on a scale closer to that encountered in traditional plant breeding programs. The experiment will run for an entire season with special emphasis paid to root development during the first six weeks of the plants' growth. HFG expects to gain insights into instrument accuracy, statistical power, heritability, and root heterosis.
Hi Fidelity Genetics has been awarded a $499,833 grant from the IDEAS program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E). This award will be used to develop a low-cost device to measure characteristics of plant roots.
The project addresses the critical need for field crops with increased drought tolerance and improved nutrient absorption, two ways to improve agricultural energy efficiency and reduce the demand for energy intensive fertilizer production. Both of these features are directly related to the root system architecture - the shape and arrangement of roots in soil and thus can be improved by plant breeding for improved root systems.
However, accurately measuring the roots of different plants is a major challenge. Laboratory methods limit the number of plants that can be easily studied, the size to which the plants can grow, and the type of environments to which the plants are exposed. Alternatively, field-deployable methods require digging up the plant, which is labor intensive and prevents multiple measurements of the same plant. New methods to measure root system architecture in the field at different times in the growth cycle will help researchers identify which root structures lead to greater agricultural efficiency.
Hi Fidelity Genetics is proud to receive this grant and continue work that will improve agricultural energy efficiency, and solve hard problems like feeding the world.