Waking sleeping plants with plasmas

In late February a grape vine shows the first sign of production; the small bud will grow into a cluster by early summer. 

Commercial crops like grapes, peaches, berries and flower bulbs all go dormant in the winter, essentially sleeping through the seasonal cold before they resume growing, flowering and fruiting again in the warmer months.

A critical concern for commercial farmers is to have good and synchronized tree growth writes phys.org. The problem in mild winter climates is that plants do not receive enough chilling, and growth resumption becomes spread out with some buds even failing to grow. When orchards of dormant trees start growing at approximately the same time, this generally makes taking care of trees and harvest easier and less costly—but tree growth and its timing is controlled by the unpredictable wiles of winter weather.

Now a group of scientists from Jazan University of Saudi Arabia has discovered an effective new way to control the dormancy of grapes and other fruiting plants, by using high-tech plasmas to wake them from their winter's slumber.

The work may help to extend the cultivation of fruit crops and ornamental plants native to temperate climates to parts of the world where winters are milder, including the southern United States, Mexico, Brazil, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It may also mitigate the problems posed by rising temperatures due to global warming in certain parts of the world.

The work was done by a team of scientists comprising Habib Khemira, a horticulturist; Zaka-ul-Islam Mujahid, a plasma physicist; and Taieb Tounekti, a plant physiologist. "Artificial methods to release dormancy are expected to become more important in the near future due to global warming," said Mujahid, who will present the work next week at the American Physical Society 71st Annual Gaseous Electronics Conference and 60th Annual meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics, which takes place Nov. 5-9 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

Though the method worked in the laboratory, it still needs to be field-tested and prove commercially feasible and economically viable to benefit industrial-scale food production.

Read more at https://phys.org/news/2018-11-plasmas.html 


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