Market estimates predict that the thermal imagery market will grow from $7.71 billion in 2016 to $10.27 billion by 2021 (Marqual-IT 2016). Industry application outside the military and construction industry has been in horticulture, forestry, agriculture and in the plant sciences. Particularly the early detection of biotic and abiotic stress (e.g. water stress) through thermography, has enabled a better visual inspection and monitoring of plant health. The non-destructive, quick and low cost nature of thermal imagery has made it a very popular tool. Main applications range from improving plant phenotyping, irrigation scheduling, yield forecasting and crop quality control screening (Grant et al. 2007).
One of the biggest challenges when using thermal imagery to detect plant responses to the environment, is that the heat-transfer from the surrounding environment requires observers to include a heat-reference point with every image that is taken (Costa et al. 2013). This is particularly important in non-fully-controlled environments (e.g. field conditions). Recent methodologies and/or devices that are available on the market vary hugely in their applicability to different environments, their labour intensity, costs, objectivity, reliability and simplicity (Batke, unpubl. data).
This project aims to improve current heat-reference methodologies by designing a new device that can easily be employed by non-trained staff, is low cost, adaptable to any environment and plant type and improves the objectivity and reliability of current thermal imagery in plant science. The project is currently in the second stage of the prototype development.