FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University has received and $8 million grant from the Department of Defense. They’ll use the money in hopes of growing plants to detect explosives in shopping malls or airports.

Researchers at CSU say they’re finding that plants are at least as good, maybe better, than dogs at sniffing out things like explosives and dangerous chemical weapons. Landscaping plants, for example, can look really nice, but also be programmed to change color when there’s danger in the air.

“If this plant would sense an explosive or an environmental pollutant, it would turn white,” CSU biology professor Dr. June Medford said. “It’s a little slow (right now).”

Medford says right now the plants take a couple hours to begin turning white, but she says with more research any kind of plant could be altered to change color in minutes or possibly seconds.

“You can do it for a lot of other plant species, but it’s not quite as simple as this,” CSU researcher Pete Bowerman said.

Researchers dunk the plants in custom-made bacteria that changes the plant genetically to make it sensitive to anything from TNT to radon.

“They can detect multiple substances and they can turn different colors,” Medford said.

Security at places like airports could well have an entirely different look if plants are doing the screening.

“Instead of that nasty line at DIA that can wind on forever and ever and ever, you would go through a beautiful garden area. Now in my garden area we would have a variety of plants that would detect a variety of those nasty things that a terrorist might take in,” Medford said.

Medford says cameras could detect the color changes automatically to alert security.

“We can then take the 10 people that happened to go by those plants at that time and those 10 people will be patted down, not the hundreds and thousands and everybody that has to have it done right now,” Medford said.

The next step in the research is to get the plants out of the controlled environment of the lab and perfect them so they don’t give false alarms when someone pours out their cup of coffee or walks by with the wrong perfume, for example.

Comments (72)
  1. Jordan Simms says:

    Hah, Italy demonstrators rally against Berlusconi

  2. Bob says:

    Turns WHITE!!! Al is not going to like that

  3. S says:

    How does one become an investor?

  4. Howard Ino says:

    Another political payoff.

    If if doesn’t work…. will the recipient repay the taxpayer?

    Of course NOT!

    1. Brian says:

      Its a grant, not a loan….geeze there is a difference

  5. cash rankin says:

    Who is in charge of what??????

  6. alex says:

    all of you “educated” folk are blaming our education system. do all of you know that nazi germany had the best schools in the world? the problem is not secular education; it is knowing the difference between right and wrong. how do we know the difference? the answer is NOT education. the answer is the 7 laws of noah.

    1. Brian says:

      No the answer isnt religious. The answer is improving our schools and getting parents to take more responsibility in raising their kids

  7. Cogito says:

    We have to get all of these fools out of office. No wonder we have the worst economic crisis since the great depression.

    1. Brian says:

      Who are these fools you speak of?

  8. Juan64 says:

    This is really a good idea.

    Clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO) is very expensive, when done by trained EOD technicians. This technology would be a godsend to countries like Vietnam, where UXO is a huge problem.

    This would save many lives.

  9. jopiper says:

    This can’t be any worse than the vegetables that are checking us for explosives now.

  10. nightwriter says:

    This is such a wonderful use of our taxdollars. When they waste the 8 million, they will not be asked to pay it back… no… they will simply return to the cash register and say they looked at the wrong plant/group of plants… maybe it’s lizards that change color… no, no… butterflies…. no, no…. fish

    What a great way to earn a living… fraud, just like the politicians! AND NO ONE IS EVER HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE STUPID/IDIOIC STUDIES!!!

  11. UnmitigatedTruth says:

    On the other hand, we could have an individual professionally trained to detect emotional changes survey the crowd and pick out those who look like they are hiding something.

    Oh wait, that would be “profiling”, and we can’t use that to save lives!

    Up with FLOWER POWER.

  12. Kenny says:

    What is the point of protecting a free society if the measures being used to protect it cause a shift to fascism.

    1. nightwriter says:

      Thank you! Most people don’t realize how facist the goverment has become because they want to be “protected” from the bad guys!

  13. JustAGuy says:

    So, Michelle Obama’s now an expert on the military?

  14. Bill says:

    Yeah. Real useful. Because terrorists would NEVER think to conceal those chemicals in a plastic container or something so that it doesn’t hit the air at all. Lot of wasted $$, IMO.

  15. Eddie says:

    As my brother said, “They’re already using vegetables to do the airport screening and run the Homeland Security Dept.”. So why not?

  16. jack says:

    To those that think this is non-sense I suggest you take a course in biochemistry, although that might be to complex, just go with biology and genetics for dummies. This is actually a good idea, which is plausible, and has the potential for real world applications; security may not be thebest or most practical, but it is an idea.

  17. Phillep Harding says:

    Better to use one of those plants that close up their leaves when touched, they react much faster.

  18. KipNoxzema says:

    We’ll just make a law for all the terrorists, that if they plant a bomb somewhere, it should be in the shrubs.

    How did I know this was from a Colorado university? How did I know?

    Next, they’ll play the Regime’s audio speeches to the plants.

  19. coggieguy says:

    These plants are Arabidopsis thaliana, the white rat of plant genetics. Annuals with a short life span, they are the basis for most advances in understanding plant genetics.

  20. lisa says:

    Oh no! The plants are white! Run for your life.

    Never mind, it was just a really bad fart.

  21. Brother Bill says:

    Security is handled with many layers. A metal detector detects metal knives, but not ceramic knives. A geranium that detects explosive vapors in seconds is an additional layer of security. I am ok with a geranium sniffing the air from by clothing.

  22. Daggers edge says:

    What a waste of time and money. Chaps me to know I go out in the real world, bust my a$$, pay taxes, so some college educated idiot can sit around coming up with ways to waste my money. Plants that will detect explosives? Supreme idiocy. How about just profiling Muslims?

  23. waste at its best says:

    That’s 8 million dollars in the ‘hopes’ that they are able to make plants turn color quickly. We need guaranteed payoff, not hope. Too much money being wasted especially when we don’t have it:(

    1. Brian says:

      We hoped to get to the moon. There was no guarantee there. So what your saying is if you lived back then you wouldnt have supported going to the moon?

  24. Michelle says:

    We owe $13 trillion in debt, and they’re wasting our money on this? I have an idea. If this is such a brilliant idea, why doesn’t a company get private investors to invest their money in it? If it’s successful, they will make a profit. If not, it won’t be; they lose their money not ours. For some reason, I think it will be unsuccessful because most bombers will THROW a bomb and let it do its damage before the plants change color. If it is succesful, I also get the feeling some private company will make money off of it with OUR money. Let’s go back to being capitalists. This socialism is for the birds.

    1. andrew p. says:

      Because just like in the prescription drug business, people (and by people I mean liberals) feel that if something is good for society as a whole, investors don’t have a right to make a profit on it. Look at the big drug companies – they invest millions to research and develop a drug. But when it comes out, and they charge a pretty penny for it, people become upset and say it should be free or extremely cheap “so we can all benefit”. They (again, liberals) would rather the govt be in charge of doling out other people’s hard earned cash.

    2. Brian says:

      How is the government giving money for research socialism?? If thats socialism then we have been socialist for atleast 70 years…..

  25. hector gomez says:

    What ever happened to free enterprise footing the bill for research & development? If a crackpot idea fails to come to fruition, then the taxpayers don’t suffer the bite in the a$$

  26. Chattykate says:

    And in 2011 the DoD issued the smallest pay raise in almost 40 years to our men and women in the armed forces who lay their lives on the line for our freedom on a daily basis. Add the funding for this plant-based fantasy together with taxpayer money spent on Pelosi’s outrageous travel bill using Air Force jets and personnel, and there could have been a little more to give to our brave men and women serving our country. What a waste.

  27. burt says:

    $8 million here and $8 million there, the next thing you know you are talking about real money.

  28. Hank Warren says:

    Wasting taxpayers money on nonsense, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our right:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama and sweep out the Congress, except Ron Paul.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

    1. andrew p. says:

      I researched you’re “banned book”. It is not banned by the US Gov’t. It has, however, been banned from many online and brick-and-mortar bookstores because it is extremely racist, and therefore violates their (the sites’ / stores’) policies. I agree with you that our rights are being violated. But you’re a fool if you believe EVERYBODY in Congress is “bad”. And, sadly, a vote for a party other than the two major political parties is akin to a wasted vote.

      1. nightwriter says:

        “Extremely racist” means exactly what in today’s terms? That it doesn’t agree with the communist currently occupying the Red House?

  29. you_betcha says:

    So firearms, knives, box cutters are still not detected. This doesn’t really do anything to improve our methods of screening. The body scanners and pat downs will still have to be used, which don’t completely protect us while infringing on our rights and privacy. Why don’t we just use profiling? That would no doubt render the best results and taxpayers won’t have 8 million dollars stolen from them for something which really improves nothing.

    1. andrew p. says:

      airports aren’t the only areas that need security screening. this kind of tech would be great simply on the streets of NYC or LA, or any other big city, to warn of terrorism… maybe it never happens, maybe it does.. either way, $8M isn’t much compared to the budget.

  30. Anger is a gift says:

    It’s comments like that, that show how uneducated you are.

    1. you_betcha says:

      Way to open a debate to resolve problems and differences. Wonder who really just revealed how uneducated they are for everyone on this forum to see? Opinions that do not completely agree with yours are immediately dismissed, eh?

  31. Slade says:

    The next thing will be a kid causing panic in the mall with a can of white spray paint or can of talc powder that costs $1.00.

    $8 million!!. We are a dumb-ass country.

    1. andrew p. says:

      Slade, you’re welcome to leave anytime you want. You certainly won’t be missed. False alarms are better than no alarms…

      1. Ding_Dong_Daddy says:

        andrew p. I’m sure you have heard the story of the boy who cried wolf

    2. Marko says:

      Well, the cameras should catch the little creep in the act. Should get a good hard spanking.

  32. Roger says:

    This sounds like a bargain to me. 8M to develop a plant that can react quickly to something in the air. How about developing a plant the detects the precursor pheromones the an epileptic emits before a seizure. Dogs can do it, why not plants. How about plants that react to carbon monoxide.

    The $8M goes to develop a new ability. Who knows where it may take us.

    It’s the job of science to take the absurd and make it real. 150 years ago, the same superficially unkind comments could well have been made about manned flight.

    How about going one step farther and bypass the camera. Hook this guy up with the professor at Kansas State University that did work 20 years ago in which he used an EEG machine to prove that plants react to stimulus electrically.

    Dare to dream.

    1. nightwriter says:

      I want to find a plant that will scream whenever a liberal walks by. That way we will be able to capture them in their natural environment, put them in a zoo where they belong, and study their mental illness/regression at our leisure. Not only that, it will save us trillions of dollars because we will be housing the idiots and not allowing them to spend any more of our money on idiot studies like this!

      I’m daring to dream!

      1. Sister Honky Tonk says:

        Yeah nightwriter. That could get very noisy in Sodom by the sea.

  33. Anger is a gift says:

    Hey Rene – it wasn’t 8 Billion, it was 8 Million… big difference. Why don’t you re-read the article and look at it for what it is… an advance in technology, before you start making up your own facts.

    1. says:

      What’s three more zero’s between friends? Now, the $10000 question: are these plants annuals or perennials?

      1. mjt says:

        Doesn’t matter. Annuals inside a building essentially become perennials (unless they are biennial)

  34. Duh Man says:

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities..
    can ROB YOU BLIND”
    Duh Man

  35. Rene says:

    8 Billion of American tax dollars wasted.

    1. mjt says:

      That’s MILLION not BILLION. It would be a lovely experience to stroll down an avenue of plants heading toward your plane. I condone the use of that money.

  36. Hank says:

    Science at it’s best. Which is why we NEED strong schools to stay competitive with the rest of the world.

    1. Miami Mike says:

      Hank, I believe you meant “Science at its best.” Our educational system really does need help.

      1. bryan says:

        Especially in respect to teaching simple manners such as not judging others.

      2. says:

        Correct. And “we” wonder why America is falling behind in science and math.

      3. Matt says:

        Bryan, Miami Mike was not judging; he was simply correcting.

  37. Aunt Bee says:

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire

    1. jack says:

      like the ones who made you believe that 9/11 was what they told you was; and then made you go to war over it.

      1. David B. says:

        Yeah, absurdities like that. Even faking the news broadcasts to show pictures of 9/11 to cover up the real culprit: GW Bush.

        Bush set up the 9/11 attacks, he even faked the 1998 WTC bombing to make the story more realistic. He then planned them and framed Al Qaeda, so he could dig oil out of the Middle East. He has a million barrels of it right now, which he will probably use to detonate his next target.

        Good thing we have “astute” people like the unnamed ones at jack’s linked site, or like Jared Lee Loughner to uncover the absurd idea that terrorists attacked us and that they planned to do it again.

      2. Dr. Bombay says:

        You are correct sir!

      3. Brian says:

        I hated Bush but im not dumb enough to believe that it was an inside job…..i mean really??!! Are you all wearing tin foil hats? Did you believe in a mass Y2K extinction? Do you all also believe the world wil end 2012? Forums like this just prove that most of the nuts spend way too much time online

  38. Joe Doakes says:

    Great. Now they are going to be using our money to get stoned.

    1. andrew p. says:

      You’re an idiot. I happen to medicate daily with cannabis (live in CA), and I still wouldn’t smoke a plant meant to detect chemicals. “using our money to get stoned”… what the hell does that even mean?? Cannabis wasn’t mentioned once in this article. You’re a fool.

      1. Jon says:

        “and I still wouldn’t smoke a plant meant to detect chemicals”

        dope head

      2. David B. says:

        Wow, I’ve heard pot makes ya paraniod. How do I get some of what this guy is smokin’?

        Yes, andrew p., you figured it all out.

        Joe really thought this whole operation was a pot farming gig. In fact, there are three DEA agents in white suits at your local sanitarium posing as doctors, and if you don’t go there now, your pot will be taken away from you by force.

        The only way to stop them is to go to there naked and painted with green leaves from head to toe.

      3. Marko says:

        Methinks Joe was kidding, and ya gotta admit it was a pithy comment.

    2. testplot says:

      I already have some of these plants…. where do I sign up for a few mill…..(wink/wink).

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