OCT 23, 2022 9:00 AM PDT

How Plants Respond to Smoke, and How it Could Affect Farming in the Future

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Wildfires have been blazing around the world, and in the past few years, their frequency and intensity have only increased. We often hear, for example, about how large and devastating forest fires are in California, often brought on by a range of changes to the area’s climate. In fact, researchers often point to climate change as a reason why forest fires are becoming more intense and more frequent.

Given their destructive potential, forest fires can do a great deal of damage to plants and ecosystems in general. While the flames themselves are the most visible culprit, there are also questions about a less visible culprit: how the vast amounts of smoke produced by a wildfire affect plants that do not succumb to the fire itself.

To better understand the dynamic between smoke saturation in soil and plant vitality, a team of researchers at the University of Missouri set out to develop a way to simulate plant reactions to smoke in the soil. What they found, however, was something they did not expect, with the help of liquid smoke. Their unexpected findings are published in a recent article published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

In their simulation, researchers used liquid smoke to replicate the experience of plant in the middle of wildfire. What they noticed surprised them: the plants natural defenses were actually boosted, giving it a greater power to resist things like plant-related diseases or pathogens.

At first glance, this seems counterintuitive, right?

To better understand what was causing this peculiar reaction, researchers turned to the plant’s vascular system which helps divert certain resources to different parts of the plant to respond to threats, much like the human immune system. They used radioisotope carbon-11 to study where exactly smoke affects the vascular system of plants. In their experiment, they used sunflowers. These sunflowers, when exposed to smoke, grew larger, thicker leaves.

Researchers hope their findings could inform future research studying agricultural crops like soybeans, which could help develop new ways of protecting crops from environmental threats and stresses.

Sources: Eurekalert!; International Journal of Molecular Sciences

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
DEC 02, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
CO2 Levels Show No Sign of Slowing Down
CO2 Levels Show No Sign of Slowing Down
Global carbon emissions show no sign of slowing down despite a need to stay below 1.5°C of total warming, an article ...
DEC 06, 2022
Plants & Animals
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
As climate change becomes more prominent in our world, people and plants alike are starting to feel the effects of a cha ...
JAN 06, 2023
Drug Discovery & Development
Shellfish - the new method to prevent unwanted pregnancies
Shellfish - the new method to prevent unwanted pregnancies
A sugar that is created by shellfish may be the next best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  According to a 2022 ...
JAN 11, 2023
Earth & The Environment
Solar-Powered Leaf Can Convert Air to Hydrogen Fuel
Solar-Powered Leaf Can Convert Air to Hydrogen Fuel
In a recent study published in Advanced Materials, a team of researchers from the Laboratory for Molecular Engineering o ...
JAN 10, 2023
Cannabis Sciences
Genotyping Methods for Identifying Male Cannabis Plants
Genotyping Methods for Identifying Male Cannabis Plants
A study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research examined the expression of male-associated DNA from Cannabis (MADC ...
JAN 29, 2023
Drug Discovery & Development
Introducing a plant toxin that can be used as an antibiotic: albicidin
Introducing a plant toxin that can be used as an antibiotic: albicidin
Albicidin is a peptide antibiotic that works as a DNA gyrase inhibitor with bactericidal activity towards fluoroquinolon ...
Loading Comments...