According to a study – Journal du geek – a simple blast of gas can produce super plants

Researchers have recently discovered that treating plant seeds with ethylene gas can have a number of positive effects, such as: B. accelerated growth and increased stress resistance.

In plant biology, the term stress refers to a number of factors that prevent plants from growing properly. As an example we can cite stress abioticB. Lack of water or a temperature that is too far from ideal conditions. There are also burdens Biotics caused by insects, fungi or pathogenic microorganisms or even stress oxidative produced by various types of chemicals that can interfere with the proper functioning of cells.

A lasting compromise between growth and resistance

Therefore, for all professionals working with plants, and especially for farmers, the management of these factors is a top priority, as it has a direct impact on crop yield. This is one of the reasons why humans have turned to genetic selection and modification.

The problem is that these changes are always a matter of compromise. For example, when a variety is modified to increase its yield, the plant inevitably has to mobilize more resources for its own growth, and this often occurs at the expense of stress protection. Conversely, more stubborn plants tend to be less productive.

Researchers are therefore exploring new approaches to make progress in both areas simultaneously, encouraging growth without sacrificing resistance to increase overall returns.

This is particularly true for Brad Binder, a researcher at the University of Tennessee who is working on itEthylene. This hydrocarbon, commonly used in cooling systems, is also a extremely important hormone in plants. It plays a crucial role in many physiological processes, from maturation to responding to various types of stress.

A chance discovery

In particular, his lab focuses on how plants and bacteria respond to ethylene and how this compound interacts with other hormones to regulate plant growth. And during this work, the researchers made a accidental discovery that could have significant impact.

It all started with an experiment in which the germination of Arabidopsis seeds – a very common model in plant biology – was observed in a darkroom. Some seeds were exposed to ethylene gas to observe its influence on the physiological process leading to germination.

After the necessary data has been collected, the experiment should be finished. But unusually, the researchers removed the shoots from the darkroom to continue growth and produce seeds for future experiments.

However, after a few days, they noticed a surprising difference. The shoots that had received a dose of this gas presented themselves larger leaves and much more complex root systems than that of the control group without ethylene. They let the plants continue to grow, and this tendency continued throughout their lives. People doped with ethylene grew faster and reached a larger size.

Two plants grown under the same conditions. The left seed, whose seeds were treated with ethylene, grew faster and reached a larger size. © Binder Laboratory, University of Tennessee

Plants that are productive and resilient

The researchers therefore wanted to check whether Arabidopsis was a special case or whether this observation also applies to other species. And after processing seeds tomatofrom Cucumber and from Wheat on ethylene, they concluded that this was indeed the case (see this research paper).

But the real icing on the cake came later. And by analyzing these new shoots, they found that not only were these plants more productive, but surprisingly, they were also more productive increased resistance to various types of stress abiotic and oxidative.

Since this discovery in the summer of 2023, Binder’s team has been trying to find the physiological mechanisms behind these dramatic differences. They haven’t managed to find a definitive answer yet, but some compelling ideas have emerged. This ethylene treatment is the most promising increases the efficiency of photosynthesis.

As a reminder, this is the process that allows green plants to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars – and thus into energy that is available for growth and stress resistance mechanisms.

More precisely, the gas would act on them Carbon fixation. This is the process that allows plants to extract CO2 from the atmosphere to convert it into various elements used in sugar production. In fact, the researchers observed that plants treated with ethylene fixed much more carbon than the others. At the end of the chain this results in a massive increase in various carbohydrates such as starch, sucrose and glucose.

A very interesting perspective for the agricultural and food industry

Does this mean we are on the verge of a real revolution in the agri-food sector? Not so fast. Before victory can be declared, it must first be clarified exactly which physiological mechanisms are involved. From there, other labs need to be able to repeat these experiments to verify the robustness of these impressive results. And if all these criteria are met, an adequate and economically viable industrial process still needs to be found to implement this concept on a large scale.

You would have understood This work is far from complete. But the potential of this approach is clear and the game is therefore worth the effort. One can imagine that the yield of many crops could skyrocket with a simple ethylene treatment. Given that ethylene is relatively easy to produce on an industrial scale (in fact, it is one of the most widely produced organic compounds in the world), this would be great news for global food security.

The text of the study can be found here.