In Israel, You Say Tomato, I Say . . . AI?
June 27, 2019
Jewish Press – An interdisciplinary group of computer and plant sciences experts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and University of California, Davis are using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to help identify cellular reactions that indicate how tomatoes and other crops handle different climate conditions.
The research is ultimately aimed at making the crops more robust while improving their nutritional value at the same time.
In the paper published in Nature’s Communications Biology, the researchers identified new metabolic pathways, which are a set of chemical reactions occurring in a cell that enable it to keep living, growing and dividing.
“The world is facing crop yield loss due to climate change, insects and other stresses,” says Dr. Rami Puzis, lead researcher and a member of BGU’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering. “Identifying pathways that are activated in varieties of tomatoes or wheat that are more resistant to stress will enable farmers to make crops more robust. By identifying metabolic pathways targeted for nutraceuticals, we can also improve the nutritional value of crops.”
The researchers are using machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence in which systems learn from data, to identify patterns and make decisions combined with correlation-based network analysis (CNA). CNA illustrates the relationship between molecular components without prior knowledge of the underlying chemistry.
“Most of the information on known pathways that exists is often discovered through time-consuming, experimental processes,” explains Dr. Puzis. “We hope that this faster computer-based approach to understanding how plants react to environmental (abiotic) stresses, like climate change, will help address food security and production issue.”