Researchers develop new plant wearable device to monitor water stress in crops

Plants can’t speak up when they are thirsty. And visual signs, such as shriveling or browning leaves, don’t start until it’s too late. Metal electrodes have previously been used to monitor thirsty plants, but it’s difficult attaching these devices to hairy leaves, which reduces their accuracy.

Researchers have created a wearable sensor for leaves that stays put, making it easy to manage plants’ water stress remotely. Reporting in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces (part of the American Chemical Society), Renato Lima and colleagues say that wearable devices for people are so sophisticated that some smart watches monitor the electrical activity of the wearer’s heart using electrodes that sit against the skin, and send the data to websites, which allow physicians to monitor and assess their patients from a distance.

Similarly, plant-wearable devices could help farmers and gardeners remotely monitor plant health, including leaf water content — a key marker of metabolism and drought stress.

Renato Lima and colleagues wanted to identify an electrode design that was reliable for long-term monitoring of plants’ water stress while also staying put. The researchers created two types of electrodes: one made of nickel deposited in a narrow, squiggly pattern, and the other cut from partially burnt paper that was coated with a waxy film.

Read the complete article at

“Biocompatible Wearable Electrodes on Leaves toward the On-Site Monitoring of Water Loss from Plants” – Renato S. Lima, Ph.D. (corresponding author) 

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