McGill Plant Phenomics Platform in action

Our lab is interested in identifying non-coding DNA targets underlying important agricultural traits such as water use efficiency (WUE) and tolerance to drought and high salt conditions. The addition of the LemnaTec Scanalyzer HTS and the 3D Scanalyzer to the McGill Plant Phenomics Platform (MP3) has allowed us to considerably reducing the time needed to screen and characterize trait-specific phenotypes. Currently we were be able to screen nearly 20 thousand plants, representing 125 non-coding DNA targets, a week, and achieving 90% phenotyping accuracy. The combination of the Scanalyzers and carefully designed protocols was key to this success.

Our Scanalyzer HTS has five integrated sensors, which allow us to measure different plant characteristics, such as near infrared scanning to measure the water content of leaves, a fluorescence camera for chlorophyll content, and RGB scanning to assess plant morphology, architecture and health. Our 3D Scanalyzer gives us a detailed assessment of larger plant, allowing us to take snapshots from multiple angles and to precisely monitor water use.

The high integration level and the diversity of its sensors make of this technology a perfect platform for phenotyping. The research infrastructure of the Department of Biology continues to grow. The latest acquisition of the LemnaTec platforms was made possible by Professor Thomas Bureau with a CA$2M infrastructure grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). This allows researchers high-throughput measurement of complex phenotypic traits in plants and is among the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world. Ongoing operating costs of the MP3 is funded by CFI funds and a CA$5M Genome Canada/Genome Quebec grant called the Value-directed Evolutionary Genomics Initiative (VEGI) represented by a team of researchers, with expertise in comparative, population and functional genomics and agricultural economics, and led by Professor Bureau.

Installation of the rooftop systems in downtown Montreal (Quebec, Canada) was extremely challenging and only made possible by the close cooperation between McGill and LemnaTec to coordinate all aspects of the logistics and on-ground support.