The Consortium for Advanced Sorghum Phenomics (CASP)

The Consortium for Advanced Sorghum Phenomics (CASP)

Project Term:
09/15/2015 - 09/14/2019

Critical Need:

TERRA project teams will integrate the agriculture, information technology, and engineering communities to design and apply new tools to the development of improved varieties of energy sorghum, a crop used to produce biofuel. Producing the large amounts of biomass needed for biofuels to displace petroleum requires significant improvements to the productivity and efficiency of biofuel crops. The teams will enhance methods for crop phenotyping (identifying and measuring the physical characteristics of plants), which are currently time-intensive and imprecise. The new approaches will include automated methods for observing and recording characteristics of plants and advanced algorithms for analyzing data and predicting plant growth potential. These innovations will accelerate the annual yield gains of traditional plant breeding and support the discovery of new crop traits that improve water productivity and nutrient use efficiency.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), along with its partners, will use aerial and ground-based platforms to identify traits required for greater production yield and resistance to drought and salinity stresses to accelerate sorghum breeding for biofuel production. The project will combine plant analysis in both outdoor field and indoor greenhouse environments as each provides unique advantages; and will use robotics and imaging platforms for increased speed and accuracy of data collection. Traditionally aboveground biomass is measured by harvesting, drying, and weighing the plant material. As an alternative approach, the team will develop non-destructive high-throughput methods to measure biomass over time. Drought tolerance will be measured by mapping water stress and using sensors to compare the difference between the canopy temperature and air temperature. The overall goal of the project is to understand the traits related to increasing biomass yield and drought/salinity stress, and to predict those traits in the early stages of plant development, before those traits become apparent using current methods.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the PNNL team will develop an integrated phenotyping solution to accelerate bioenergy plant breeding by identifying the traits needed to yield greater amounts of biomass from plants able to withstand greater environmental stress.


Improved biofuel crops could lead to increased production of domestic biofuels, reducing dependence on foreign sources of transportation fuels.


Increased use of biofuels could significantly reduce CO2 emissions from transportation, and improved varieties of biofuel crops could use less water and be more resistant to environmental stress.


Advanced crop and breeding techniques could speed up and lower the cost of developing improved crop varieties for biofuels and other agricultural applications


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Dr. Christer Jansson
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Blue River Technology, Inc.

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