FIND is studying photosynthesis-related activity and fluorescence in a bid to develop an ‘early warning system’ for plant disease.

The research, led by Dr George Littlejohn, is founded on the principle that, while much of the light that plants absorb is used for photosynthesis, if the photosynthetic process is malfunctioning – as often is the case in diseased crops – light can also be given back off as fluorescence.

The team is exploring which fluorescent parameters are indicative that a plant either has or is about to show disease symptoms indicative of infection with a pathogen, plus hope to design an automatic imaging system which, taking pictures intermittently, will give an insight into how photosynthesis is being influenced by a developing infection in a leaf or plant.

Working with Cornish businesses, the FIND project could yield intelligence that one day is useful in polytunnel operations or even at field-scale – in the context of Cornish agriculture, nationally or even in less developed countries if the cost of the system can be kept low.

Vertical farming and the FIND project

In this project, we are deploying fluorescence imaging equipment in vertical farming systems to monitor plant disease and nutritional status. We are working alongside our sister project, Plant Factory, in order to provide an integrated sensing system and we are developing knowledge which will allow for the automatic assessment of plant health. 

We anticipate that work to optimise and deploy this system in controlled vertical farming facilities will lead to further applications in the field.

<p>FIND plants - Agri-Tech Cornwall</p>

Meet the FIND team

Dr George Littlejohn

(Lecturer in Applied Biology, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth)

Dr George Littlejohn is a plant biologist and Lecturer in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth. George’s background is in plant pathology, plant stress biology and advanced biological imaging techniques. 

The FIND project brings these research interests together to help develop tools for early disease detection in economically important plant species. Other current research in George’s research group focuses on interactions between environmental conditions and pathogenicity in rice blast disease.

Find out more about his research here

<p>George Littlejohn - FIND project</p>
<p>Naofel Aljafer</p>

Dr Naofel Aljafer 

(PhD in Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth)

Dr Aljafer is working with the FIND project to detect and diagnose plant diseases using imaging techniques: Chlorophyll Fluorescence (CF) Imaging and Normalised Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI). He is also aiming to optimise early detection methods of nutrient deficiency and disease symptoms for crops grown in open field, greenhouse, and plant factory systems.

<p>Basil plant - FIND project</p>
<p>Basil plant - FIND project</p>
<p>Plant close up - FIND project</p>
<p>Lettuce for the FIND project</p>

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

The University of Plymouth is proud to be supported by the European Regional Development Fund. As one stream of funding under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014–2020, the ERDF focuses on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The main priorities involve contributions to research and innovation, supporting and promoting small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), and the creation of a low carbon economy.
<p>European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) logo</p>
<p>Close up of a leaf - FIND project</p>
<p>George Littlejohn - working on the FIND project</p>
<p>Injecting a basil plant - FIND project</p>
<p>Working on the FIND project</p>
<p>Lettuce and basil growing for the FIND project</p>
<p>FIND project team</p>
<p>FIND equipment&nbsp;</p>