Just like human jet lag, plants have body clocks that are crucial for their life in a world that has day and night — and these clocks contribute significantly to their growth and the responses to their environments.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers at England’s University of Bristol found that the death of plant tissue and slow-down in growth resulting from glyphosate depends upon the time that the herbicide is applied and also the biological clock.
“This proof of concept research suggests that, in the future, we might be able to refine the use of some chemicals that are used in agriculture by taking advantage of the biological clock in plants,” said Dr. Antony Dodd, senior author of the paper. “Approaches of this type, combining biotechnology with precision agriculture, can provide economic and environmental benefits.”
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 and money and reducing environmental impacts.
In human medicine, “chronotherapy” considers the body clock when deciding the best time to give a medicine or treatment. This new research leans that way, too, suggesting that employing a form of agricultural chronotherapy might have a future role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture required to feed the growing population.