Researchers have been harnessing the power of NASA’s advanced AVIRIS-NG instrument to detect signs of GLRaV-3, a virus that affects grape plants. By installing AVIRIS-NG inside an aircraft, they are able to use spectrometry to analyze the composition of the ground below. This innovative technique splits incoming light into different wavelengths, allowing scientists to identify absorbed wavelengths and gather valuable information on the targeted subjects.
Originally designed for ecological research, AVIRIS-NG has proven effective in studying seasonal variations and the impact of ecological factors on human health. The instrument has been used to investigate wildfires, oil spills, and volcanic air pollution. In this particular study, researchers examined how grape plants interact with sunlight. Even though infected grape plants may not exhibit visible symptoms, changes in their sunlight absorption patterns can indicate the presence of the virus. Machine learning was employed to analyze the data collected from AVIRIS-NG, encompassing observations from 11,000 acres of vineyards. Remarkably, the researchers achieved an accuracy rate of up to 87% for detecting sick plants before any symptoms manifested, as reported in the paper “Phytopathology.”
This groundbreaking research not only benefits grape farmers, but also highlights the potential of aerial observations for addressing other crop-related issues. Ryan Pavlick of JPL, one of the researchers involved, envisions expanding this approach to combat various crop diseases worldwide. “The ultimate vision that we have is being able to do this across the planet for many crop diseases and for growers all over the world,” stated Pavlick.
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