When a houseplant begins to droop or wilt, their need for water is fairly apparent. When dealing with acres and acres of crops, addressing water shortages is a lot harder and the stakes are a lot higher. A new technology developed by MIT engineers could change that by enabling plants to send a message at the first signs of drought conditions. Could it help lead to more thirst-resistant crops and more efficient agriculture practices?

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Real-time Measurement Of Biological Responses

By printing tiny carbon nanotube sensors on the surface of plants, a signal can then be transmitted once a plant starts to show early signs of being affected by drought. The process works as small pores on a plant’s surface, known as stomata, open and close in response to light, carbon dioxide, lack of water, and other stimuli. Real-time measurement of stomata response has been difficult to understand until the integration of carbon nanotube sensors.

Better Insight For Growers And Scientists

By measuring the stomata responses over a period of time, researchers were able to determine when plants were deprived of water to a point of stress, with greater accuracy and before other signs of drought became apparent. In the research process, carbon nanotube ink was printed directly on the plant. For potential agricultural, gardening, and environmental research applications, the same technology could be applied to a sticker, which would then provide insight to growers and field scientists. The technology may also be put to use for engineering plants that are more resistant to drought conditions.


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