Science Into Practice - Ethylene and irrigation

CP 081 Detection and amelioration of root-zone ethylene production in protected crops

Roots generate the plant hormone ethylene in response to stresses such as drought or poor aeration. Ethylene can reduce growth or cause leaf senescence or flower drop. Understanding how the amount of ethylene produced relates to crop stress caused by low substrate water content could lead to ways of monitoring ethylene to aid irrigation.

The technology is now available to measure and monitor root-zone ethylene fluctuations in response to changes in substrate moisture. In turn, this could be linked to management techniques such as automatic irrigation scheduling or root-zone bacterial treatments that mitigate the effects of ethylene on the crop.

Using tomato as the model species, AHDB Horticulture student Antje Fiebig varied irrigation schedules according to substrate moisture thresholds and recorded the plants' physiological responses to these regimes.

After four weeks of overwatering, plant growth (fresh weight) had fallen behind by 62 per cent and total leaf area by 70 per cent compared with plants in a regime where irrigation matched their need for water. Short-term flooding of otherwise "normally watered" plants induced more pronounced changes in soil oxygen concentration than did long-term continuous over-irrigation.

Overwatering had no effect on leaf concentrations of the stress hormone abscisic acid. But it did increase ethylene levels in shoots and leaves more than threefold, although levels in the root zone were the same as in plants watered according to demand.

Fiebig also found that overwatering reduced leaf nitrogen content by a third. Daily additions of small amounts of calcium nitrate to the substrate of overwatered plants restored foliar nitrogen levels, ethylene concentrations and growth to normal.

For details on all AHDB Horticulture activity, see horticulture.ahdb.org.uk


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Can growers see off the looming labour crisis by boosting efficiency?

Can growers see off the looming labour crisis by boosting efficiency?

Concern over the availability of seasonal labour to the fresh-produce industry has never been greater.

Will the Government help fruit growers make transition to new crop-protection regime?

Will the Government help fruit growers make transition to new crop-protection regime?

The policy visions for farming recently set out by pro-Brexit ministers Michael Gove and George Eustice suggest a post-Common Agricultural Policy UK agriculture will have still fewer crop-protection chemicals available.

Could the Agriculture Bill refocus farm support towards fresh produce?

Could the Agriculture Bill refocus farm support towards fresh produce?

With a new Agriculture Bill due to pass through Parliament next year, much of what an independent British farming policy could or should look like is currently up for grabs, and the past month has seen an upsurge of publications and speeches feeding into this debate.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production
 

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon