Scientists see many shades of green to diagnose plant problems early

Looking at the light reflected by the plant using special equipment scientists can see problems occurring in the plants before those problems become visible to our eyes. When we look at a plant the colors we see are the light colors reflected by the plant. We can tell by looking at the reflected color of a leaf whether or not it is getting enough sun.

Hyperspectral imaging looks at the same range of light we do, but in much finer increments. For instance instead of us seeing 3 possible shade of green on a leaf, light, med, dark, it might see ten shades of green.

. . . Just like when we start having the flu, our body responds and we get a fever, he said. The fever is because our body is mobilizing its immune system. When a plant undergoes stress caused by diseases, insects or the environment (like drought), it will cause changes in its metabolism and that leads to subtle changes in the way it reflects light.

We can use this camera to detect stress at an earlier stage than by visual inspection.

For instance, Nansen said, root rot is all underground, and generally plants are half dead when the damage becomes visible.

But if you could see it earlier, you may have time to treat for the fungus causing the problem, he said.

The hyperspectral camera detects diseases in any plant, Nansen said. And with insect damage, the key parameter to control is early detection. . . [ read more Plant reflections may be key to early detection of treatment needs ]

Which tells you that small changes in the leaf color of your house plants may be a clue to a problem.