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Title: UAV-Based Thermal, RGB Imaging and Gene Expression Analysis Allowed Detection of Fusarium Head Blight and Gave New Insights Into the Physiological Responses to the Disease in Durum Wheat
Authors: francesconi, sara 
Harfouche, Antoine 
Maesano, Mauro 
Balestra, Giorgio Mariano 
Issue Date: 2021
Wheat is one of the world's most economically important cereal crop, grown on 220 million hectares. Fusarium head blight (FHB) disease is considered a major threat to durum (Triticum turgidum subsp. durum (Desfontaines) Husnache) and bread wheat (T. aestivum L.) cultivars and is mainly managed by the application of fungicides at anthesis. However, fungicides are applied when FHB symptoms are clearly visible and the spikes are almost entirely bleached (% of diseased spikelets > 80%), by when it is too late to control FHB disease. For this reason, farmers often react by performing repeated fungicide treatments that, however, due to the advanced state of the infection, cause a waste of money and pose significant risks to the environment and non-target organisms. In the present study, we used unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based thermal infrared (TIR) and red-green-blue (RGB) imaging for FHB detection in T. turgidum (cv. Marco Aurelio) under natural field conditions. TIR and RGB data coupled with ground-based measurements such as spike's temperature, photosynthetic efficiency and molecular identification of FHB pathogens, detected FHB at anthesis half-way (Zadoks stage 65, ZS 65), when the percentage (%) of diseased spikelets ranged between 20% and 60%. Moreover, in greenhouse experiments the transcripts of the key genes involved in stomatal closure were mostly up-regulated in F. graminearum-inoculated plants, demonstrating that the physiological mechanism behind the spike's temperature increase and photosynthetic efficiency decrease could be attributed to the closure of the guard cells in response to F. graminearum. In addition, preliminary analysis revealed that there is differential regulation of genes between drought-stressed and F. graminearum-inoculated plants, suggesting that there might be a possibility to discriminate between water stress and FHB infection. This study shows the potential of UAV-based TIR and RGB imaging for field phenotyping of wheat and other cereal crop species in response to environmental stresses. This is anticipated to have enormous promise for the detection of FHB disease and tremendous implications for optimizing the application of fungicides, since global food crop demand is to be met with minimal environmental impacts.
ISSN: 1664-462X
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.628575
Appears in Collections:A1. Articolo in rivista

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