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posted on 09.04.2018, 09:01 authored by Xuping Feng, Chenliang Yu, Yue Chen, Jiyun Peng, Lanhan Ye, Tingting Shen, Haiyong Wen, Yong He

The development of transgenic glyphosate-tolerant crops has revolutionized weed control in crops in many regions of the world. The early, non-destructive identification of superior plant phenotypes is an important stage in plant breeding programs. Here, glyphosate-tolerant transgenic maize and its parental wild-type control were studied at 2, 4, 6, and 8 days after glyphosate treatment. Visible and near-infrared hyperspectral imaging and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging techniques were applied to monitor the performance of plants. In our research, transgenic maize, which was highly tolerant to glyphosate, was phenotyped using these high-throughput non-destructive methods to validate low levels of shikimic acid accumulation and high photochemical efficiency of photosystem II as reflected by maximum quantum yield and non-photochemical quenching in response to glyphosate. For hyperspectral imaging analysis, the combination of spectroscopy and chemometric methods was used to predict shikimic acid concentration. Our results indicated that a partial least-squares regression model, built on optimal wavelengths, effectively predicted shikimic acid concentrations, with a coefficient of determination value of 0.79 for the calibration set, and 0.82 for the prediction set. Moreover, shikimic acid concentration estimates from hyperspectral images were visualized on the prediction maps by spectral features, which could help in developing a simple multispectral imaging instrument for non-destructive phenotyping. Specific physiological effects of glyphosate affected the photochemical processes of maize, which induced substantial changes in chlorophyll fluorescence characteristics. A new data-driven method, combining mean fluorescence parameters and featuring a screening approach, provided a satisfactory relationship between fluorescence parameters and shikimic acid content. The glyphosate-tolerant transgenic plants can be identified with the developed discrimination model established on important wavelengths or sensitive fluorescence parameters 6 days after glyphosate treatment. The overall results indicated that both hyperspectral imaging and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging techniques could provide useful tools for stress phenotyping in maize breeding programs and could enable the detection and evaluation of superior genotypes, such as glyphosate tolerance, with a non-destructive high-throughput technique.