MSU physics professor’s research informs global food security

May 22, 2017


Ariunbold Gombojav (Photo by Russ Houston)
Ariunbold Gombojav (Photo by Russ Houston)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A recent paper published by a Mississippi State University assistant professor of physics will inform global food security research through detection of abiotic stress in plants. The novel technique developed will help food growers more quickly and efficiently respond to plant stresses.


MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty member Ariunbold Gombojav, along with colleagues from Texas A&M University and Baylor University, published the breakthrough interdisciplinary research in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers used Raman spectroscopy to demonstrate a powerful tool that can detect changes in living plants at the molecular level due to abiotic stresses. The detection technology, according to the study, holds promise for mobile automated systems and precision agriculture.


“With growing concerns about the impacts of climate change, environmental stresses and global food security, this work holds a promise for a rapid, cost effective, and non-invasive alternative for detection of abiotic stress in plants,” Gombojav said.

For the study, researchers subjected plants to common abiotic stresses such as high soil salinity, drought, chilling exposure and light saturation. Using a remote spectroscopic system, researchers were able to detect early plant stress reactions without harming the plants. The responses detected with the remote method were then validated by commonly accepted chemical extraction methods. Gombojav said the study shows the importance of using interdisciplinary techniques to solve complex global problems such as global food security.


“A new challenge for today’s scientists lies in finding new practical applications for advanced technologies and often those fields may be well beyond the borders of one’s own discipline,” Gombojav said. “For instance, in this research laser and quantum physicists collaborated with experts in molecular biology, plant pathology and microbiology.  A few years ago, I worked on a national security project with a team of optical physicists to develop in the lab a tool to detect anthrax spores. Recently I became more interested in applying advanced spectroscopic technology in agriculture, in particular, ensuring food security.”


The abstract and full text of the paper is available at More on Gombojov’s research at MSU can be found at


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