The photomorpogenesis research project at Clemson University is very interesting. Photomorphogenesis means light-mediated growth, and photomorphogenesis research looks at how the manipulation of light sources effects plants. This regulation of plant growth is independent of photosynthesis and it is controlled by the pigment phytochrome. Phytochrome exists in two forms, Pr and Pfr and has peak absorptions at 660nm and 730nm red-range light. It’s the conversion of the pigment between the two forms that ultimately influences the plant growth, the morphology, flowering, and germination.
The photomorphogenesis research program at Clemson University was founded in 1985. The initial research showed that the color of the mulch used to grow the plants had an effect on the plants microenvironment and ultimately influenced growth. Later research showed various things such as mulch color affecting nematode interactions with plant roots, or whitefly populations. Current research is directed at the effects external light has on plant growth and the different chemical metabolisms involved in their control.
The research is very interesting because simple things like mulch color affecting insect populations might have a huge impact. Instead of using pesticides that can enter the food supply and poison humans, perhaps a certain color of mulch will be sufficient to control the insect populations.
At Iowa State University, Rajeev Arora is conducting research into the mechanisms plants use for surviving cold weather. Some of the research questions he has involve the “cold-acclimation genes” and how they are expressed and regulated, the functions of cold-acclimation proteins in the freezing/thawing process of plants, identifying molecular markers linked to genes that control the plants freezing tolerance, and understanding how the evergreens physiology allows it to live throughout the winter.
The cold-acclimation research is very interesting because it is necessary to understand the mechanisms that plants use in the extreme cold to survive. With climate change and increasing population, it’s very possible that we will have to go to more extreme environments in order to grow even basic food for nutrition. This project combines my interest in horticulture as well as genetics because of all the genetic methods and manipulations that the plants are subjected to.
Interesting research regarding farming is also being conducted at Oregon State University. Since the programs inception, it has released about 65 new vegetables into the marketplace. The goal of the Oregon State University projects is to assist local farmers in producing sustainable produce. Another fascinating area of research conducted in Oregon is with bees. There are two main projects regarding bees that is currently taking place there. The first one is on the effects of pollen quality on honeybee nutrition. The second area is on the use of synthetic brood pheromone to enhance pollen foraging. The pheromone studies, I personally find to be the most interesting.
Pheromones are chemical substances which individual release into the hive (in the case of the honey bee!) or into the environment that in turn causes behavioral changes in the other bees. They are used for a wide variety of messaging signals between bees, including hive recognition, signaling drone status, and marking hive eggs. In fact, there are 15 different glands producing pheromones in the honeybee and queen bees have their own set of pheromones which they transmit.
The project in Oregon is on using synthetic pheromone to enhance pollen foraging, but the implications of this research span far beyond just the honey bee and the breakfast table. A better understanding of the use of pheromones may increase hive productivity. It will also widen our knowledge of pheromones and their utility within nature., perhaps even in humans. Furthermore, we will also invariably learn about the organs that both produce and detect pheromones, thereby indirectly advancing our knowledge of chemical detection and general chemical creation.
A series of projects that I found particularly interesting was being performed on the subject of plant cell physiology. The department of horticulture at University of Florida recently identified an endocytic mechanism whereby sucrose is up-taken into plant cells. They found that endocytosis as a method of nutrient accumulation is actually induced the presence of the sugar itself and are based on laser fluorescent studies of citrus fruit and sycamore cells. Essentially, the team was able to use labeled endocytic markers and a variety of nano-particles to elegantly show how the nutrients were assimilated into the cell. Further research in this area involves investigations of how fluid phase endocytosis and membrane-bound sugar carriers coordinate their actions, and studies regarding the accumulation of sugars during periods of water stress.
These studies of plant physiology have deep implications in the biological sciences. By understanding plant nutritional physiology, we’ll be better able to nourish and support plants that are food staples of the growing world population.
All in all, the study of horticulture is very important in this day and age. The world population is growing and more demands will be made on plant food resources. Climate change is changing the way plants grow and this must be fully researched and understood if we are to continue to have viable plant foods available to use. Furthermore, by being able to grow plants more efficiently and speedily we are also contributing to the environment and reducing the reliance on meat-based foods that are known contributors to greenhouse emissions. Finally, an understanding of plant biology and growth informs our knowledge of all biology – including human biology. The cellular and physiological mechanisms used by plants are similar, if not identical to many mechanisms found in higher-order animals, however, plants provide us with a cheaper and more ethical research model to use.
Kelly, J.W., et al., (n.d.) Applications of Photomorphogenesis Research to Horticultural Systems. Retrieved from http://www.clemson.edu/hort/research/photo.php
Arora, R., et al., (n.d.) Iowa State University Department of Horticulture. Retrieved from http://www.hort.iastate.edu/research
Sagili, R., et al., (n.d.) Department of Horticulture Oregon State University. Retrieved from http://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/
Folta, K., et al., (2013) Horticultural Science at University of Florida. Retrieved from http://www.hos.ufl.edu/