PS Webinar Series: Elemental bio-imaging techniques in plant nutrition

Abstract -By 2050, food production may need to increase by up to 70% in order to feed a global population of an estimated 9.7 billion people. The corresponding increase in demand for inputs such as mineral fertilizers poses a critical challenge for improving the sustainable use of finite resources such as phosphorus. Known rock phosphate deposits are already under threat from overexploitation, while current excessive soil fertilization practices are creating large scale environmental pollution issues. Furthermore, phosphorus deficiency in plants is often latent and can be difficult to diagnose visually in time to rescue potential yield reductions.

Elemental bio-imaging techniques can provide tools to address these challenges by improving our understanding of plant physiology. This presentation will discuss two techniques developed during my PhD to investigate foliar phosphate uptake processes. Firstly, the development of an IMAGING PAM chlorophyll a fluorescence assay allowed for the visualization of latent phosphorus deficiency in barley leaves. Secondly, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) was applied as a sensitive, high-resolution approach for visualising elemental distributions at the near-micron scale, facilitating the investigation of alternative targeted nutrient delivery methods such as foliar fertilization. The versatility of these methods offers many opportunities for their wide application across agricultural and plant nutrition research.

Biography - Maja Arsic is a joint PhD student studying Plant Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and University of South Australia. She currently works on applying cutting-edge analytical chemistry techniques to problems at the nexus of agriculture, plant nutrition and the environment, such as “peak phosphorus”. Maja is a 2017 John Monash Scholar and a current Postgraduate Scholar with the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE), having won several grants to conduct research at the Australian Synchrotron and at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. She is also interested in the relationship between science and policy, as she has previously worked in a policy role at the Australian Department of Agriculture & Water Resources.

Maja Arsic