Sci Rep. 2023 Dec 14;13(1):22261. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-48426-5.
Traditional methods for assessing plant health often lack the necessary attributes for continuous and non-destructive monitoring. In this pilot study, we present a novel technique utilizing a customized fiber optic probe based on attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) with a contact force control unit for non-invasive and continuous plant health monitoring. We also developed a normalized difference mid-infrared reflectance index through statistical analysis of spectral features, enabling differentiation of drought and age conditions in plants. Our research aims to characterize phytochemicals and plant endogenous status optically, addressing the need for improved analytical measurement methods for in situ plant health assessment. The probe configuration was optimized with a triple-loop tip and a 3 N contact force, allowing sensitive measurements while minimizing leaf damage. By combining polycrystalline and chalcogenide fiber probes, a comprehensive wavenumber range analysis (4000-900 cm-1) was achieved. Results revealed significant variations in phytochemical composition among plant species, for example, red spinach with the highest polyphenolic content and green kale with the highest lignin content. Petioles displayed higher lignin and cellulose absorbance values compared to veins. The technique effectively monitored drought stress on potted green bok choy plants in situ, facilitating the quantification of changes in water content, antioxidant activity, lignin, and cellulose levels. This research represents the first demonstration of the potential of fiber optic ATR-FTIR probes for non-invasive and rapid plant health measurements, providing insights into plant health and advancements in quantitative monitoring for indoor farming practices, bioanalytical chemistry, and environmental sciences.