Wetenschap - 1 januari 1970

Aerial photos determine tastiness of plants

Aerial photos determine tastiness of plants

Aerial photos determine tastiness of plants


PhD students Jelle Ferwerda and Onisimo Mutanga are examining whether
aerial photos can give a good indication of how tasty and nutritious
vegetation is. The colour spectrum reproduced on spectrometry recordings of
vegetation should be able to provide information on the amount of nutrients
such as phosphorus and protein, and bitter substances such as tannin.

The method that Ferwerda and Mutanga are developing could be used to
measure the grazing pressure in nature areas, or to estimate how much use
elephants and antelopes make of a certain area. Locations that attract many
animals, such as a drinking pool, are often so overgrazed that the plants
develop substances such as bitter-tasting tannins and polyphenols to repel
the animal grazers. Animals usually know exactly where to find the spots
with the most nutritious and tasty plant growth, even if they are far away
from drinking pools.

The aim of the research is to compile a map of the biochemical variation
within the vegetation of a particular area. The researchers use a
spectrometer to measure the light that bounces off vegetation samples in
the laboratory and in the field. Then they determine the biochemical
composition of the samples. Aerial photos are also taken of the areas where
samples are collected. All the information is entered into a mathematical
model, which the researchers hope will eventually lead to the establishment
of a relationship between protein or tannin content of a plant and the
colour on a photo. They are already capable of measuring protein content
with up to ninety percent accuracy using this method, and tannin content
with fifty to sixty percent accuracy.

Martin Woestenburg

Re:ageer