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Can biological clocks in plants set time for the spraying of crops?

A crop
Dr. Antony Dodd

Plants can tell the time and this affects their response to some herbicides used in agriculture according to new research led by the University of Bristol. The study, in collaboration with Syngenta, found that plant cadadian rhythms regulate plant sensitivity to a commonly used herbicide according to the time of day. The results can benefit agriculture by reducing the harvest and improving the harvest.

Just like human jet lag, plants have body clocks that are crucial to their lives in a world that has day and night. Plant biological clocks make a crucial contribution to their growth and response from crops to their fluctuating environments.

Dr. Antony Dodd, associate professor at the School of Biological Sciences and senior author of the paper, said: "This proof of concept research suggests that in the future we may be able to refine the use of certain chemicals used in agriculture by utilizing the biological clock in plants . Approaches of this type, which combine biotechnology with precision farming, can provide economic and environmental benefits. "

In a new article, published today [Friday 1

6 August] in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers found that the death of plant tissue and slow down in growth resulting from the herbicide glyphosate depends on the time the herbicide is applied and also the biological clock.

Crucially, the biological clock also led to a daily change in the minimum amount of herbicide needed to affect the plant, so less herbicide was needed at certain times of the day. This provides an opportunity to reduce the amount of herbicides used, saving farmers time, money and reducing the environmental impact.

In medicine, "chronotherapy" takes into account the body clock when deciding the best time to give a drug or treatment. This new research suggests that a similar method could be used for future agricultural practices, where crop treatments are sometimes applied that are most appropriate for certain weeds or crops. Using a form of agricultural chronotherapy may have a future role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture needed to feed the growing population.


"Plant Cadadian 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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