North American Plant Phenotyping Network

2021 NAPPN Graduate Student Award

Nathan T. Hein

Assistant Scientist
Crop Ecophysiology Lab (CEL)
Department of Agronomy | Kansas State University
University webpage

Mr. Nathan Hein is a third-year Ph.D. student from the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University (KSU). Mr. Hein’s research focuses in two areas: enhancing heat stress resilience and developing sensor-based tools to improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crops. Mr. Hein joined the Crop Ecophysiology Lab at KSU in 2018 and was immediately tasked with designing a field-based system to phenotype for high night-time temperature (HNT) stress impact on wheat. Mr. Hein was successful in designing, building, and publishing this methodology in Plant Methods. Mr. Hein then expanded and improved this methodology to create one of the world’s first mobile field-based systems to impose HNT stress on a large (320 accessions) winter wheat diversity panel. The new methodology, code to operate the Raspberry Pi system, and results were published in Scientific Reports. Mr. Hein plans to continue to investigate HNT impact on other row crops including maize and sorghum.

Mr. Hein is also working towards developing sensor-based decision making tools which will help producers improve NUE without negatively impacting yield and grain quality. Mr. Hein expertly crafted a data collection regime utilizing both ground- and aerial-based sensors which allowed for efficient repeatability and a high temporal dataset. Along with these experiments, Mr. Hein also authored a review article to identify bottlenecks in current high-throughput plant phenotyping for drought and heat stress resilience and proposed new methodologies and research directions to effectively implement sensor-based solutions to relieve these bottlenecks, which is available in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

Mr. Hein also acts as the Crop Ecophysiology Lab’s outreach coordinator and is actively involved with organizations which aim to develop interest in STEM careers in minority and female students. His ability to relate complex scientific principles via hands-on activities has exposed hundreds of students to STEM and agricultural science careers.

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