Recognition of orobanche cumana below-ground parasitism through physiological and hyper spectral measurements in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)

Amnon Cochavi, Tal Rapaport, Tania Gendler, Arnon Karnieli, Hanan Eizenberg, Shimon Rachmilevitch, Jhonathan E. Ephrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Broomrape (Orobanche and Phelipanche spp.) parasitism is a severe problem in many crops worldwide, including in the Mediterranean basin. Most of the damage occurs during the sub-soil developmental stage of the parasite, by the time the parasite emerges from the ground, damage to the crop has already been done. One feasible method for sensing early, below-ground parasitism is through physiological measurements, which provide preliminary indications of slight changes in plant vitality and productivity. However, a complete physiological field survey is slow, costly and requires skilled manpower. In recent decades, visible to-shortwave infrared (VIS-SWIR) hyperspectral tools have exhibited great potential for faster, cheaper, simpler and non-destructive tracking of physiological changes. The advantage of VIS-SWIR is even greater when narrow-band signatures are analyzed with an advanced statistical technique, like a partial least squares regression (PLS-R). The technique can pinpoint the most physiologically sensitive wavebands across an entire spectrum, even in the presence of high levels of noise and collinearity. The current study evaluated a method for early detection of Orobanche cumana parasitism in sunflower that combines plant physiology, hyperspectral readings and PLS-R. Seeds of susceptible and resistant O. cumana sunflower varieties were planted in infested (15 mg kg−1 seeds) and non-infested soil. The plants were examined weekly to detect any physiological or structural changes; the examinations were accompanied by hyperspectral readings. During the early stage of the parasitism, significant differences between infected and non-infected sunflower plants were found in the reflectance of near and shortwave infrared areas. Physiological measurements revealed no differences between treatments until O. cumana inflorescences emerged. However, levels of several macro- and microelements tended to decrease during the early stage of O. cumana parasitism. Analysis of leaf cross-sections revealed differences in range and in mesophyll structure as a result of different levels of nutrients in sunflower plants, manifesting the presence of O. cumana infections. The findings of an advanced PLS-R analysis emphasized the correlation between specific reflectance changes in the SWIR range and levels of various nutrients in sunflower plants. This work demonstrates potential for the early detection of O. cumana parasitism on sunflower roots using hyperspectral tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number909
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2017


  • Broomrape
  • Early attachment
  • Mesophyll
  • Minerals content
  • PLS-R

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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