July 21, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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“Just like the barbababa, the plant can perfectly adapt to conditions.”

“Just like the barbababa, the plant can perfectly adapt to conditions.”

Rashmi Sasidharan, 43, suffered from diabetes throughout her childhood and schooling. Plant blindnessA condition created 25 years ago by two American botanists and defined as: “the inability to see and appreciate the beauty, importance and unique biological properties of plants, and the tendency to regard them as inferior to animals.” In short, this is a condition that almost everyone suffers from – because we all sometimes walk through a forest or across a lawn without seeing it as more than just a green background?

What makes Sasidharan’s case so exceptional is that she was recently installed as a professor Plant stress resistance At Utrecht University. On June 13, she gave her inaugural lecture – and hopefully Plant blindness He can also heal others. “Plants are really amazing if you take the time to get to know them.”

The blind botanist became a professor of plants. How is that possible?

“During my studies in biochemistry, I found plants very boring. I grew up in Kerala, a coastal state in southern India famous for its coconut palms – but I had no interest in these trees. I preferred to be in the lab. Until I got the opportunity to do a PhD in Calgary, Canada. During my studies, I worked a lot on enzymes and this position was about enzymes in the cell walls of plants and I really wanted to spread my wings and get away from India… I told my supervisor that I knew nothing about plants. That reassured me: if you know what a plant is, that’s enough.

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“But once I got my PhD, I became more and more interested in the whole plant. I did research on the response to sunlight and shade Stellaria longaa flower from the carnation family. So at first I just looked at the enzymes that cause plants to respond to changes in sunlight, but during fieldwork in the Rocky Mountains, I was quickly amazed at the myriad ways plants respond to their environment. They are not at all the passive creatures that are often thought of. I like to compare them to the cartoon character Barbapapa. They are also perfectly adapted to the conditions.”

They can distinguish between the shadow of a nearby intruding flower or the temporary shadow of a passing cloud.

So what properties of barbababa do plants have?

“Take this reaction to sunlight. Anyway, it is amazing how plants compete with each other for sunlight, with the shaded individual developing a longer stem and fewer leaves to grow faster towards the light. But within a single species this can manifest itself quite differently. Individuals of Stellaria longa For example, those that thrive in prairies and are accustomed to competing with many others of the same species can distinguish between the shadow of an intrusive neighboring flower or the temporary shadow of a passing cloud. Their counterparts that grow in more mountainous areas cannot do this, because they are much less close to each other and there is no need for that.

“After my PhD, I started studying the response of plants to a lot of water. Because they also develop wonderful tricks to survive in flood zones.

How does a plant know when it is flooded?

“In fact, such a plant then suffocates. It can’t CO properly anymore2 and oxygen exchange, which hinders respiration and photosynthesis. In addition, the plant hormone ethylene acts as a flood warning. Once the plant becomes short of breath, the amount of ethylene increases rapidly. The hormone ensures the activation of plant survival strategies. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and die – the oldest outer leaves first. This initially seems like a drawback. But the meristem, a group of cells in the stem and root tips from which new plant tissue can be formed, remains intact as long as possible. Meanwhile, polysaccharides from wilted leaves can serve as nutrients for the meristem. The entire plant will die only if the flooding continues for a long time. Unless that plant still has a trick up its sleeve and can handle water.

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Do all underwater plants react the same way?

“Certainly not. This is clear only by comparing two types of sorrel, Romex Palustris And Rumex acetozaBoth can be encountered in the Netherlands. The first type grows faster in the air during floods and causes some of its cells to die. The air cavities that are created as a result, known as aerials, act like snorkels. Romex acetoza It adopts a wait-and-see strategy and stops growing until the flood ends. These different strategies are also related to their growth location. Romex palustris It is often flooded, Romex acetoza It grows taller and suffers only during rare major floods when no branch can help anyway.

Take the rice. For a long time, the focus was on growing the most productive varieties, but they were often vulnerable

Why is it important to research submerged plants?

“First of all, climate change makes it a more important issue. Floods will occur frequently. This is also interesting about cress, Arabidopsis thaliana plantWhich is often used by botanists as a “model plant.” In principle, this almost never happens; the species simply grows on the sidewalk. My colleagues thought it was strange that I was also curious about this plant’s flooding strategies. It was assumed that Arabidopsis had no trick in high water. But this turned out to be incorrect: the plant also temporarily cuts off its power when it is flooded. It now seems that this is not an unnecessary luxury, because with the current amount of rain, even garden cress sometimes disappears.

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“Flood research is also important because it directly relates to our food supply. Many crops are far from water-resistant, and this could be a major problem due to increased flooding. From an agricultural perspective, it is not enough for the plant to survive: we also want it to continue to provide food.

How can botanists contribute to this?

“Take rice. For a long time, the focus was on growing the most productive varieties, but they were often vulnerable to climate change. There is now frequent hybridization with flood-resistant varieties, and there is also greater interest in so-called deep-water rice that grows in Vietnam. It can survive It is in water at a depth of 7 meters and is harvested from boats.

“Diversity is the key word. This also applies to science. Interdisciplinary research is essential for key topics like food. In fact, as scientists we ourselves are one big Barbapapa family, each with its own tricks.