A Plant Health Camera

By

June 15, 2013

Monitoring the health of plants in your garden might be about to get a lot easier. In fact, it might be possible to catch signs of stress before they even become really noticeable. Not just in your indoor garden, but the backyard veggie plot, your flower garden and the landscape plants too.

One of the biggest challenge that any gardener has is determining the difference between healthy and not-so-healthy plants. Its not like they can say, “Hey! I’ve got issues here.” Many times before a newcomer to the art of growing notices anything is wrong, the plant is already in serious decline. It can be frustrating and many a brown thumber has tossed in the towel before they learn to read signals and how important the right conditions are to any kind of plant at all. The most common cause of plant decline in the home garden is water – either too much or too little. In the indoor garden, maintaining nutrient levels is a big issue for a variety of reasons.

Meet the Infragram. A new concept in photography that gives you a first hand view of the secret life of plants.

Using infrared light it is possible to monitor chlorophyll production, biomass and the relative water content in plants. Big agriculture, vineyards and ecological studies, along with government and industrial businesses have used infrared images from NASA satellites to monitor plant health for years. Now a group of savvy programmers and software developers have figured out how to process images from the most inexpensive camera and apply the same technology with free online programming – both photography and video.

Infrared Chlorophyll Concentration ImageryHow is this really possible? Studies have proven that chlorophyll concentration is directly related to plant stress levels. It is very effective for monitoring nutrients. However, though water stress does register they found that it’s affect on chlorophyll concentration happens in this instance only when it reaches a critical status. That’s okay really. Water stress is easily monitored visually. Plants signal this issue pretty readily by drooping. Of course it’s always a good idea to use the touch test. Don’t guess – you could be drowning the poor thing. Stick your finger in the soil or potting medium. You’ll know right away if looking parched really means you need to water.

It all started as a way to monitor the effects on coastal plants after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the Infragram is a phenomenal Kickstarter project. It isn’t often that a crowd funding post raises as much money the first day as this one did. They long ago surpassed the initial $30,000 they were seeking. There are still 21 days to go and they’ve already got over $51,000 in pledges. It’s definitely a cool idea, whether you want to monitor small farm crop health, the environment or your grow room. A cool tool that is affordably priced tool. Rumor has it that the point and shoot model will retail for under $100 – and developing and translating what’s going on in the image is free on the Public Lab website.

Since their pledge period still has several weeks to go, don’t try finding one of these cameras or filters to purchase just yet. Of course, you can always head over to the project to score. For $10 you can get just the DIY filter material to use on a camera you already own. Pledge $125 and you can get the whole package… point and shoot camera, filter material and a webcam too.

Visit: Infragram Kickstarter Project
More info on their website: Public Lab

Image source: Kickstarter, Public Lab

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton

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