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Satellite technology to measure plant energy activity

Posted on Mar 25 2014 | IANS

Washington, March 25 : In what could provide an improved tool to evaluate the productivity of the breadbaskets of the world - such as the Indo-Gangetic plain, scientists have for the first time made use of satellite technology to measure photosynthetic activity as it occurs around the planet.

Seen as the primary source of energy for all life on earth, photosynthesis is a process through which plants convert energy from sunlight into chemical energy.

"This new method uses satellites to sense fluorescence emitted during photosynthesis," Joe Berry of Carnegie Institution of Washington said.

The new approach is based on a breakthrough in the capacity to use satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

This light is called fluorescence and it is produced when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll.

The method offers a direct measurement of activity occurring as the satellite passes overhead.

Other approaches to detecting photosynthetic activity on a large scale are less direct, so until now, models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a planetary scale.

"It changes everything. It gives us a direct observation of photosynthesis on a large scale for the first time ever," Berry added.

The study appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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