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Are your plants stressed out?!

Tech > Are your plants stressed out?

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Wearable patches for your plants can give you the 411

10 August 2021, 4:25 PM

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Caring for our plants is not only good for them, but it’s good for us too! With lots going on in our lives, gardening and caring for plants can be a comforting and relaxing distraction.

Life can be hectic, moving at such a fast pace, so it’s nice to be able to slow it down and tend to our leafy pals for a while. Plus, with much of our day spent looking on a laptop or phone screen, it’s nice to have a break from living in the online world. And relaaaaax.

But while we might be relaxing and de-stressing when giving our plants some much needed TLC, what about how our plants are doing? Are they chilled out and happy too? Well now you can find out how your buds (geddit?) are doing...

A wearable patch for plants that monitors their ‘stress’ levels such as extreme heat or disease has been developed in the US.

The wearable sensor is completely non-invasive so doesn’t harm the plant, and it monitors how it’s doing by measuring the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released.  

Plants let off different combinations of VOCs under different circumstances. By targeting VOCs that are relevant to specific diseases or plant stress, the sensors can alert green fingered users to specific problems.

The small rectangular patches are 30 millimetres long and are made of a flexible material that contains sensors. The sensors are coated with various chemicals that respond to the presence of VOCs, allowing it to detect and measure VOCs in the gases produced by the plant’s leaves. 

Current methods of testing for plant stress or disease are very invasive and involve taking plant tissue samples and conducting tests on them in the lab, so this approach is much gentler. What a re-leaf!

The patch continuously monitors the plant which allows growers to identify any diseases as quickly as possible, helping the plants to live a long and happy life. Plus, the materials and technology are very affordable, so it’s cheap and cheerful!

But what does the future hold for this tech?

Well, researchers are currently working to develop a next-generation patch that can also monitor for temperature, humidity (you know, just to check they aren’t feeling too balmy) and other environmental variables. And while the current prototypes have been battery powered, the researchers plan for future versions to be solar powered.

Take it or leaf it, we think this is a light ‘bulb’ (sorry) moment for plants worldwide.

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