The growth of plant organs can be followed by using artificial landmarks, as detailed in this paper:
Delivering high-resolution landmarks using inkjet micropatterning for spatial monitoring of leaf expansion. By: Lisheng Wang, Simon T Beyer, Quentin CB Cronk and Konrad Walus. Plant Methods 2011, 7:1
Link to inkjet micropatterning paper
Inkjet micropatterning is a versatile deposition technique with broad applications in numerous fields. However, its application in plant science is largely unexplored. Leaf expansion is one of the most important parameters in the field of plant science and many methods have been developed to examine differential expansion rates of different parts of the leaf lamina. Among them, methods based on the tracking of natural landmarks through digital imaging require a complicated setup in which the leaf must remain fixed and under tension. Furthermore, the resolution is limited to that of the natural landmarks, which are often difficult to find, particularly in young leaves. To study the fine scale expansion dynamics of the leaf lamina using artificial landmarks it is necessary to place small, noninvasive marks on a leaf surface and then recover the location of those marks after a period of time.
To monitor leaf expansion in two dimensions, at very fine scales, we used a custom designed inkjet micropatterning system to print a grid composed of c. 0.19 mm2 cells on small developing leaves of ivy (Hedera helix) using 40 μm dots at a spacing of c. 91 μm. The leaves in different growing stages were imaged under magnification to extract the coordinates of the marks which were then used in subsequent computer-assisted leaf expansion analyses. As an example we obtained quantified global and local expansion information and created expansion maps over the entire leaf surface. The results reveal a striking pattern of fine-scale expansion differences over short periods of time. In these experiments, the base of the leaf is a "cold spot" for expansion, while the leaf sinuses are "hot spots" for expansion. We have also measured a strong shading effect on leaf expansion. We discuss the features required to build an inkjet printing apparatus optimized for use in plant science, which will further maximize the range of tissues that can be printed at these scales.
To apply inkjet micropatterning to plant studies, we have successfully delivered landmarks on ivy leaf surfaces and achieved high-resolution, two-dimensional monitoring of leaf expansion at different growing stages. The measurement is capable of reliably identifying the fine scale changes during plant growth. As well as delivering landmarks, this technology may be used to deliver microscale targeted biological components such as growth hormones, and possibly be used to pattern sensors directly on the leaves.