Lending a robotic hand

Without plants, life as we know it wouldn’t exist. But how plants process environmental information and which molecular mechanisms help them adjust to change are still open questions. A better understanding of plants could help scientists grow more resilient crops in the face of the planet’s shifting climate and increasingly extreme environments.

In order to hasten such discoveries, plant scientists at Salk recently acquired a custom seed-planting robot thanks to a crowdfunding campaign and longtime Salk supporters Larry and Carol Greenfield, one of whom lent the robot his name. “Larry the Robot” carries out high-throughput planting of thousands of seeds in environmental variations faster than a human.

“Not only is the robot much faster than humans in preparing the experiments but it has a much lower error rate and allows for more sophisticated experimental designs. This enables us to seek answers to questions in plant biology that we couldn’t ask before,” says Salk Associate Professor Wolfgang Busch.

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