Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

A new screening method for osmotic component of salinity tolerance in cereals using infrared thermography

Xavier R. R. Sirault A B C , Richard A. James A and Robert T. Furbank A B

A CSIRO Plant Industry, Black Mountain, Corner Clunies Ross Street and Barry Drive, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Australian Plant Phenomics Facility – The High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre, Corner Clunies Ross Street and Barry Drive, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

This paper originates from a presentation at the 1st International Plant Phenomics Symposium, Canberra, Australia, April 2009.

Functional Plant Biology 36(11) 970-977
Submitted: 20 July 2009  Accepted: 15 September 2009   Published: 5 November 2009


A high-throughput, automated image analysis protocol for the capture, identification and analysis of thermal images acquired with a long-wave infrared (IR) camera was developed to quantify the osmotic stress response of wheat and barley to salinity. There was a strong curvilinear relationship between direct measurements of stomatal conductance and leaf temperature of barley grown in a range of salt concentrations. This indicated that thermography accurately reflected the physiological status of salt-stressed barley seedlings. Leaf temperature differences between barley grown at 200 mM NaCl and 0 mM NaCl reached 1.6°C – the sensitivity of the IR signal increasing at higher salt concentrations. Seventeen durum wheat genotypes and one barley genotype, known to vary for osmotic stress tolerance, were grown in control (no salt) and 150 mM NaCl treatments to validate the newly-developed automated thermal imaging protocol. The ranking of the 18 genotypes based on both a growth study and the IR measurements was consistent with previous reports in the literature for these genotypes. This study shows the potential of IR thermal imaging for the screening of large numbers of genotypes varying for stomatal traits, specifically those related to salt tolerance.

Additional keywords: Hordeum vulgare, IR, transpiration, Triticum turgidum.


The authors wish to thank Dr Rana Munns for helpful comments on the manuscript and the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre (Canberra node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility) where the research was conducted.


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