Wind induced crop failure (plants blown over during windstorms) is a major agricultural problem, especially in wheat, barley and canola. The problem of wind induced crop failure (lodging) may be framed as a limitation in measurement capabilities: for breeders to develop stronger crop varieties, strength must be measured accurately. Unfortunately, previous measurement techniques are error-prone and unreliable. This proposal integrates engineering expertise with crop science to develop field-deploying, electro-mechanical devices to measure wheat stem strength. Once validated, these devices will be used in selective breeding studies to improve lodging susceptibility. These objectives are well aligned with the NSF, USDA and industry sponsors such as Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.
The project will support development of Dr. Robertson as an internationally recognized researcher. In addition to ground-breaking research, Dr. Robertson will develop professional teaching competences by incorporating research findings into undergraduate engineering courses. This will enable Dr. Robertson to conduct biomechanical research while addressing practical challenges faced by working agronomists. At the completion of this project, wheat breeders will have new ways of measuring stem strength and Dr. Robertson will be prepared to embark on a successful research career centered on application of biomechanical expertise to modern agriculture.