Plant scientists at Cambridge University say circadian clock genes, which enable plants to measure daily and seasonal rhythms, should be used in agriculture and crop breeding for more sustainable farming in the future.
The circadian clock of a plant is responsible for several functions such as flowering time, photosynthesis and water use. Manipulating this rhythm is known as ‘chronoculture’. Using this technique scientists want to exploit the rhythms within the plants to allow plant breeders to have more control over their crops.
The benefits of using chronoculture:
- Plant growing practices would be adapted to the optimal time of day to reduce the resources required.
- The knowledge of the plants internal clock would be used to know when the most effective time of day or night is to apply water, herbicides or pesticides.
- Low-cost technologies such as drones and sensors would be used to collect round-the-clock data about plant growth and health.
- Farmers could receive advice on weather and the best time to apply treatments to their crops ect.
“Plants grow much better when their internal clock is matched to the environment they grow in” said Professor Alex Webb, Chair of Cell Signalling in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences. “We know from lab experiments that watering plants or applying pesticides can be more effective at certain times of day, meaning farmers could use less of these resources. This is a simple win that could save money and contribute to sustainability.”
In the next 35 years, it has been estimated we will need to produce more food than we have ever produced before in human history, with the population estimated to grow by a staggering 2 billion. However Webb is confident that this solution can partly contribute to easing this problem.