Could biological clocks in plants set the time for crop spraying?

Grain Central, August 21, 2019


PROOF of concept research suggests that, in future, agriculturalists might be able to refine the use of some chemicals that are used in agriculture by taking advantage of the biological clock in plants, according to University of Bristol senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, Dr Antony Dodd.

Dr Dodd said approaches of this type, combining biotechnology with precision agriculture, could provide economic and environmental benefits.

Just like human jet lag, plants have body clocks that are crucial for their life in a world that has day and night.

Plant biological clocks make a crucial contribution to their growth and the responses of crops to their fluctuating environments.

In a new paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found the death of plant tissue and slow-down in growth resulting from the herbicide glyphosate depended upon the time that the herbicide was applied and also the biological clock.

Crucially, the biological clock also led to a daily change in the minimum amount of herbicide that is needed to affect the plant, so less herbicide was needed at certain times of day.

This provides an opportunity to reduce the quantity of herbicides used, saving farmers time, money and reducing environmental impacts.

In medicine, “chronotherapy” considers the body clock when deciding the best time to give a medicine or treatment.

This new research suggests that a similar approach could be adopted for future agricultural practice, with crop treatments being applied at times that are most appropriate for certain species of weed or crop.

By employing a form of agricultural chronotherapy might have a future role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture required to feed the growing population.

Source: University of Bristol

Paper: ‘Plant circadian rhythms regulate the effectiveness of a glyphosate-based herbicide’ by Belbin FE, Hall GJ, Jackson AB, Schanschieff FE. Archibald G, Formstone C, Dodd AN in Nature Communications



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