New NASA mission to detect plant water use from space

phys.org | 6/20/2018 | Staff
normanorma (Posted by) Level 4
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Doctors learn a lot about their patients' health by taking their temperature. An elevated temperature, or fever, can be a sign of illness. The same goes for plants, but their temperatures on a global scale are harder to measure than the temperatures of individual people.

That's about to change, thanks to a new NASA instrument that soon will be installed on the International Space Station called ECOSTRESS, or ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station. ECOSTRESS will measure the temperature of plants from space. This will enable researchers to determine plant water use and to study how drought conditions affect plant health.

Plants - Water - Soil - Sun - Water

Plants draw in water from the soil, and as they are heated by the Sun, the water is released through pores on the plants' leaves through a process called transpiration. This cools the plant down, much as sweating does in humans. However, if there is not enough water available to the plants, they close their pores to conserve water, causing their temperatures to rise.

Plants use those same pores to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis—the process they use to turn carbon dioxide and water into the sugar they use as food. If they continue to experience insufficient water availability, or "water stress," they eventually starve or overheat, and die.

ECOSTRESS - Data - Changes - Plants - Temperatures

ECOSTRESS data will show these changes in plants' temperatures, providing insight into their health and water use while there is still time for water managers to correct agricultural water imbalances.

"When a plant is so stressed that it turns brown, it's often too late for it to recover," said Simon Hook, ECOSTRESS principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But measuring the temperature of the plant lets you see that a plant is stressed before it reaches that point."

Temperature - Measurements

These temperature measurements are also considered an early...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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