The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department
of Defense announced the conduct of a new project that explores on the
potential of plants to be used in next-generation surveillance technology.
The project, called Advanced Plant Technologies, focuses on engineering
robust, plant-based sensors that are self-sustaining in their environment
and can be remotely monitored using existing hardware. The main objective of
the project is to boost the natural stimulus response mechanisms in plants
to detect the presence of specific chemicals, pathogens, radiation, as well
as electromagnetic signals.
DARPA plans to use genome editing, a technology that has shown promising
results in other plants. "Plants are highly attuned to their environments
and naturally manifest physiological responses to basic stimuli such as
light and temperature, but also in some cases to touch, chemicals, pests,
and pathogens," said Blake Bextine, Program Manager of APT. "Emerging
molecular and modeling techniques may make it possible to reprogram these
detection and reporting capabilities for a wide range of stimuli, which
would not only open up new intelligence streams, but also reduce the
personnel risks and costs associated with traditional sensors," he added.