Understanding plant growth and development is important for several reasons. The most basic reason is to gain more insight into different life processes, which can be rewarding in itself. Beyond this, however, it also allows us to anticipate, prepare for, and ultimately resolve various problems related to not only agriculture, but the environment and our own health.
Plants play a vital role in our survival as a species. Not only do we rely on them to feed ourselves and our livestock, but they also provide the oxygen we breathe, absorb carbon dioxide, regulate the water cycle, and impact soil health. Without them, our ecosystem could not exist, making them integral to life on earth.
What is Plant Growth and Development?
Although plant growth and plant development are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not refer to the same thing.
Plant growth refers to a process in which there is a change in the size of cells and organs in the plant. This occurs as a result of cell division and enlargement. It is an irreversible process that results in the increase of volume and/ or mass. The enlargement of a leaf is an example of growth.
Plant development is related more to the lifecycle of the plant and refers to the process whereby the plant matures by moving from an earlier stage of development to a later one, as with a seed ultimately becoming a fully mature plant.
The development of the plant is governed by the interaction of the plant’s genetic material and its environment. Plants capture energy from sunlight for a process called photosynthesis, in which water and carbon dioxide from the air and soil are taken in. The water is oxidized, losing electrons to the carbon dioxide. The water thus becomes oxygen, while the carbon dioxide becomes stored energy in the form of glucose molecules.
Plant nutrition relies on nutrients such as nitrogen(N), phosphorus(P), and potassium(K), typically referred to as NPK. These nutrients help the plant grow so that they can photosynthesize effectively.
Both plant growth and plant development are complicated and lengthy processes that continue throughout the life of the plant.
Understanding the Factors That Affect Plant Growth
The growth of a plant is affected primarily by four factors: light, water, temperature, and nutrients. The combination of these factors will affect the plant’s growth hormones, causing it to grow more quickly, or more slowly. Each one has a role to play and changes to any one of them can impact the plant.
If you have had houseplants that did poorly in the shade while others struggled in direct light, then you have noticed that different plants have individual needs. Plants exist in all parts of the world, in environments with a range of lighting conditions. To survive, they have had to adapt to different levels of light intensity, and some will not do well in other conditions.
Light also provides the plant with various signals to trigger a specific response. For example, the shorter days of winter provide less intense light for fewer hours each day, but when the spring equinox approaches, the change in light intensity and temperature stimulates the plant to end their dormancy and begin growing. As the days grow longer and summer sunlight arrives, flowering and fruiting is encouraged, but as days again grow shorter in the fall, many plants will shed their leaves.
The combination of light and temperature through the seasons affects plants significantly. Warmer weather trigger chemical reactions in the plant that speed up photosynthesis, transpiration (the loss of water vapour from the plant), and respiration. The warm period also hastens growth, while cool or cold periods cause growth to slow, perhaps even causing the plant to go dormant.
Water is essential for plant survival. They are, after all, composed of nearly 90% water. Although the amount they need will vary, if they are deprived completely, they become stressed and may die. Conversely, water can also be problematic If relative humidity is too high, it will inhibit transpiration and the plant’s ability to draw nutrients form the soil. A plant may begin to rot if water cannot evaporate for a prolonged period of time.
Plants cannot grow without certain essential nutrients. As mentioned above, the key ones are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but they also require hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. The latter three can be obtained from the air and water, but NPK and several other come from the soil. The right balance of soil nutrients allows for efficient growth, but if some nutrients are lacking, it can result in slow or stunted growth.
The Different Stages of Plant Growth
There are several stages that a plant will go through on its journey from seed to mature plant. They are:
It all starts here. This is the first step in germination. A tough outer coat protects the plant embryo, which consists of a root, shoot, and leaves. The seed will be dormant until germination starts, which requires the right temperature, water, and soil.
Once the right conditions are met, allowing nutrients to reach the seed, germination can begin. In this stage, the seed sprouts, with roots entering the soil to draw out water and minerals.
Following germination, a young plant begins to grow and starts reaching for the sun. It will need an ongoing supply of water, sunlight, air, and nutrients to survive. The initial leaves, known as cotyledons, will open and the plumule, a rudimentary shoot, develops.
Vegetative Growth Phase
During the vegetative growth period, the plant is busy producing leaves. This is a critical point of development as sufficient leaf surface is needed to capture sunlight for photosynthesis. The plant is gathering the energy it needs to flower and reproduce, growing considerably unless they lack the nutrients and water necessary to do so.
The final stage sees the mature plant ready to reproduce. All of the energy it has been gathering is put to use producing flowers, fruit, pollen, and seeds.
In every organ of the plant, you will find three tissues present: the dermal layer, the vascular tissue, and the ground tissue.
The dermal layer is equivalent to the skin of the plant, such as a tree’s bark, serving as an outer protective layer. Leaves have a waxy cuticle that acts as waterproofing. The dermal layer has small openings called stomata, which allow carbon dioxide to enter.
The vascular tissue is the innermost layer of the plant and it has three components: the xylem, phloem, and vascular cambium. The xylem brings the water and nutrients absorbed by the roots to the rest of the plant. The phloem transports glucose and other elements produced by the plant. The vascular cambium is responsible for increasing the diameter of stems and roots. It also forms the woody tissue.
The ground tissue is the intermediate layer. Effectively, it is anything that is not part of the other layers. In leaves, the ground tissue is the mesophyll containing the photosynthetic cells. Mesophyll is the main site of photosynthesis and is composed of two types of tissues: the palisade parenchyma and the spongy parenchyma.
The palisade parenchyma is located beneath the upper epidermis. It is composed of cells oriented perpendicular to the surface of the leaf. The spongy parenchyma is located in the lower part of the leaf. It is composed of irregularly shaped cells.
What Are Some Common Techniques to Enhance Plant Growth?
Nutrition is a key factor in plant growth, particularly during spring and summer. Because they need specific nutrients, you may need to add fertilizer to your soil if some of those nutrients are missing. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the primary macronutrients and are needed in larger amounts than other nutrients. They are also the most likely to be deficient in your soil. Many fertilizers have nitrogen as the main component, as it is known for driving plant growth.
Another means of helping plants get the nutrients they need is crop rotation. This is a technique that involves growing a series of different types of crops in the same area in successive seasons. It helps preserve soil structure and nutrient content, as continuously planting a single crop depletes the soil. Crop rotation also helps to prevent weeds, pests, and disease.
Optic Foliar has revolutionized the traditional concept of foliar spraying by utilizing advanced scientific knowledge of the mesophyll layer. This has led to the creation of an unparalleled method that is both dynamic and cost-effective while providing multifarious solutions. Customers who opt to use optic foliar spray products will find the application process and results to be quite flexible, creating an uplifting experience that will help their plants reach new heights in terms of growth, health, yield and quality. We carry a variety of foliar sprays that are useful for any stage of growth, take a look at our products to see which one is most useful for you.
Despite the best efforts, pests can still be an issue, sometimes requiring pesticide use. Pesticides can deter insects, fungi, and weeds, allowing the plant to remain healthy and grow more efficiently.
The best way to help your plants grow is to simply ensure they have everything they need to do so, including the right nutrients, ample water, and the correct amount of sunlight. This, combined with planting at the right time and in the right location can help your plants grow to their full potential.