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General Science => Question of the Week => Topic started by: thedoc on 26/06/2013 09:39:50

Title: QotW - 13.05.23 - How do plants grow upwards?
Post by: thedoc on 26/06/2013 09:39:50
My name is Kylowe de Pinto. I'm in grade 8 at Fish Hoek High School, Cape Town, South Africa. I listen to your talk with Redi Tlhabi on Talk Radio 702 in South Africa on Fridays whenever I can. I have to do a science expo at school and mine concerns the growing of plants. I have planted beans and have watched them grow and I would like to know what makes a plant always grow up. Like the plants and trees on the side of the mountian. I planted the bean in a pot and turned the pot upside down but it still grew through the drain holes at the bottom of the pot. At the same time planted a bean waited until it germinated and just started to come out of the soil then I turned the pot upside down and it then grew out, then to the side and up. Why is that. Why does it always go up?
Asked by Kylowe de Pinto

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Title: QotW - 13.05.23 - How do plants grow upwards?
Post by: thedoc on 26/06/2013 09:39:50
We answered this question on the show...

Hannah - So, how do plants know to grow the way they do?  Over to Dr. Paul Robson, Plant Biologist at Aberystwyth University.
Paul - Plants grow upwards because they're trying to get to the light to begin photosynthesis, but mostly germinate underground where there's little light to follow. And so, the plants actually use gravity to tell it which way is up.  They will grow upwards even in complete darkness.
Hannah - Clever plants, but since leaves have no vestibular system like us humans using liquid in our ears to know which way is up, how do seeds in plants know which direction the sky lies in?
Paul - We know starch is important in sensing gravity and to do this, plants package starch into structure called statoliths. The statoliths are dense within the plantís cytoplasm in which they're suspended. So, they sink due to gravity and itís this movement that allows the plant to tell which way gravity is acting. Once the shoots have emerged from the soil, plants change their response again and mainly use light rather than gravity to determine where they grow. Incidentally, different parts of the plant respond differently to gravity. The shoots grow upwards, but the roots grow downwards, searching for water.
Hannah - And are there any other experiment we can do at home to test out this powerful effect of gravity?
Paul - You can see this if you put a seed in the middle of a big pot and let it grow for a few days. Then if you turn the pot on its side and let it grow for a few more days, the shoots should curve upwards and the roots curve downwards. Plants do this because they lack basic locomotion and so, they're forced to grow towards whatever they need.
Hannah - A lovely science test for the home. And if you have a bigger budget for experimentationÖ
John - Hi, I'm John Kiss from Oxford, Mississippi and we sent some plants into space. All week long, weíve been giving some exciting video downlinks from the International Space Station which shows some cool new ways that plants sense light. Based on these results, we will be able to better grow crop plants in space and on other planets.
Hannah - So, itís a mixture of light and gravity cues that combine to direct plant growth that seems important for sensing gravity and the plantís surface senses light. And even in space where there's only a small amount of gravity, plants can grow and scientists are trying to understand exactly how.
Title: Re: QotW - 13.05.23 - How do plants grow upwards?
Post by: CliffordK on 04/06/2013 02:22:01
I've wondered if there is also an element of compensation to stress.

Many trees will tend to lean a bit, especially on the edge of a grove, where the trees grow outward towards the light.  So, Do the roots compensate to this added stress?  I suppose the root balls I've seen still remain somewhat round.

Tomatoes are apparently quite happy to grow upside-down.

Title: None
Post by: Bob Saget on 04/12/2013 19:20:16
Tis boih. U tard. Listen. Plants need sun. dem need dat sunlight doe. das why dey smile at the sun and touch it.
Im correct. dont think oderwise, as i hav a bachelor degree in erf science
Title: None
Post by: Phoebe Ho on 16/06/2015 18:09:31
Hi I am Phoebe Ho and I am 9 years old in USA CA South Pasadena.  I am wondering why do trees grow tall not short?  I always wonder about science and this is my hardest question I cannot solve.