ICARDA’s New PhysioTron Facility Ready to unblock global phenotyping efforts 

Published Date
June 07, 2021
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
PhysioTron Machine
PhysioTron Machine

ICARDA is thrilled to present its new PhysioTron machine developed in collaboration with partner national research institutions and agricultural research programs. The innovative PhysioTron speeds up accurate measuring and recording of plant genetic traits, allowing for more advanced research towards achieving food security in the dry areas.  


Global food systems rely heavily on cereals, yet their agricultural production is increasingly threatened by impacts of climate change. Drought-induced wheat yield loss is among the greatest challenges in global agriculture, especially in food-insecure dry regions where ICARDA works. 


Phenotyping, or measuring key traits of crops such as drought-tolerance, is crucial in breeding and genetics in order to accelerate the development of improved varieties. But following a revolution in genetics witnessed in past years, phenotyping is now the main bottleneck preventing optimization of a vast information pool. 


To generate timely phenotypic data, the Precision Platform for Wheat Phenotyping (PPWP) based in the National Institute for Agricultural research in Morocco Station is now fully equipped with an innovative “rainout-sheltered hyper-lysimetric automatic facility”. Named PhysioTron, the facility is now ready to complement field trials in wheat development with precision drought simulation experiments in controlled conditions.  


The PhysioTron can house up to 750 plots, 1.5m in depth, filled with soil according to soil profiles specified by the station. The PhysioTron’s fully automated control system offers flexibility for designing a wide range of experiments that allow for the application of various and controlled water regimes in each plot, while a mobile gantry allows researcher access to middle plots without disturbing the earth of side plots. Future upgrade of the facility will include the installation of high-throughput phenotyping devices that will allow deeper research using the newest generation techniques.  



The facility will generate high quality phenotypic data on plant response to abiotic stresses such as drought and heat, paving the way for more advanced trait selection technologies, expanding the precision and prediction value of phenotyping/genotypic data for new germplasm emerging from the CGIAR’s WHEAT Research Program and partner breeding pipelines.  


The PWPP will be essential for speeding up accurate phenotyping of the germplasm from international agricultural research centers, advanced research institutions, and national agricultural research programs. Generated data will help understand the mechanisms of stress resistance, in turn informing the design of breeding methodologies and appropriate deployment strategies of improved drought tolerant germplasm. 


The Wheat Phenotyping Platforms (PWPP) have been developed through the support and collaboration of the CGIAR WHEAT Research Program and co-investing national agricultural research institutes. The Platform in Morocco is a collaboration between ICARDA, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the National Research Institute of Morocco (INRA). 


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