Photosynthesis and Plant Growth

Category : UPSC

 Photosynthesis and Plant Growth

 

1.           Photosynthesis

 

  • Photosynthesis does take place in the green leaves (chloroplast) of plants but it does so also in other green parts of the plants.
  • In chloroplast there is the membranous system consisting of grana, the stroma lamellae, and the fluid stroma. There is a clear division of labour within the chloroplast. The membrane system is responsible for trapping the light energy and also for the synthesis of ATP and NADPH. In stroma, enzymatic reactions incorporate \[C{{O}_{2}}\] into the plant leading to the synthesis of sugar, which in turn forms starch.
  • The former set of reactions, since they are directly light driven are called light reactions. The latter are not directly light driven but are dependent on the products of light reactions (ATP and NADPH). Hence, to distinguish the latter they are called, by convention, as dark reactions.
  • A chromatographic separation of the leaf pigments shows that the colour that we see in leaves is not due to a single pigment but due to four pigments: Chlorophyll a (bright or blue green in the chromatogram), chlorophyll b (yellow green), xanthophylls (yellow) and carotenoids (yellow to yellow-orange).
  • Pigments are substances that have an ability to absorb light, at specific wavelengths.
  • Maximum absorption by chlorophyll a, occurs in the blue and the red regions.
  • Though chlorophyll is the major pigment responsible for trapping light, other thylakoid pigments like chlorophyll b, xanthophylls and carotenoids, which are called accessory pigments, also absorb light and transfer the energy to chlorophyll a. Indeed, they not only enable a wider range of wavelength of incoming light to be utilised for photosyntesis but also protect chlorophyll a from photo-oxidation.
  • When we distinguish between light quality, light intensity and the duration of exposure to light, while discussing light as a factor that affects photosynthesis. There is a linear relationship between incident light and \[C{{O}_{2}}\] fixation rates at low light intensities. At higher light intensities, gradually the rate does not show further increase as other factors become limiting.
  • What is interesting to note is that light saturation occurs at 10 per cent of the full sunlight. Hence, except for plants in shade or in dense forests, light is rarely a limiting factor in nature. Increase in incident light beyond a point causes the breakdown of chlorophyll and a decrease in photosynthesis.
  • Carbon dioxide is the major limiting factor for photosynthesis. The concentration of \[C{{O}_{2}}\] is very low in the atmosphere (between \[0.03\]and \[0.04\]per cent). Increase in concentration upto \[0.05\]per cent can cause an increase in \[C{{O}_{2}}\] fixation rates; beyond this the levels can become damaging over longer periods.
  • The fact that \[{{C}_{3}}\] plants respond to higher \[C{{O}_{2}}\] concentration by showing increased rates of photosynthesis leading to higher productivity has been used for some greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and bell pepper. They are allowed to grow in carbon dioxide enriched atmosphere that leads to higher yields.
  • The dark reactions being enzymatic are temperature controlled. Though the light reactions are also temperature sensitive they are affected to a much lesser extent. The \[{{C}_{4}}\] plants respond to higher temperatures and show higher rate of photosynthesis while \[{{C}_{3}}\]plants have a much lower temperature optimum.
  • Even though water is one of the reactants in the light reaction, the effect of water as a factor is more through its effect on the plant, rather than directly on photosynthesis. Water stress causes the stomata to close hence reducing the \[C{{O}_{2}}\], availability. Besides, water stress also makes leaves wilt, thus, reducing the surface area of the leaves and their metabolic activity as well.

 

2.           Plant Growth

 

  • Plant growth is unique because plants retain the capacity for unlimited growth throughout their life. This ability of the plants is due to the presence of meristems at certain locations in their body. The cells of such meristems have the capacity to divide and self-perpetuate.
  • Gibberellins is able to cause an increase in length of axis is used to increase the length of grapes stalks. Gibberellins, cause fruits like apple to elongate and improve its shape. They also delay senescence. Thus, the fruits can be left on the tree longer so as to extend the market period. \[G{{A}_{3}}\] is used to speed up the making process in brewing industry. Sugarcane stores carbohydrate as sugar in their stems. Spraying sugarcane crop with gibberellins increases the length of the stem.
  • Natural cytokinins are synthesised in regions where rapid cell division occurs, for example, root apices, developing shoot buds, young fruits etc. It helps to produce new leaves, chloroplasts in leaves, lateral shoot growth and adventitious shoot formation. Cytokinins help overcome the apical dominance. They promote nutrient mobilisation which helps in the delay of leaf senescence.
  • Ethylene is a simple gaseous Plant Growth Regulator (PGR). It is synthesised in large amounts by tissues undergoing senescence and ripening fruits. Ethylene is highly effective in fruit ripening. It enhances the respiration rate during ripening of the fruits. This rise in rate of respiration is called respiratory climactic.
  • It has been observed that some plants require a periodic exposure to light to induce flowering. It is also seen that such plants are able to measure the duration of exposure to light. For example, some plants require the exposure to light for a period exceeding a well defined critical duration, while others must be exposed to light for a period less than this critical duration before the flowering is initiated in them.
  • There are plants for which flowering is either quantitatively or qualitatively dependent on exposure to low temperature. This phenomenon is termed vernalisation. It prevents precocious reproductive development late in the growing season, and enables the p ant to have suffident time to reach maturity. Vernalisation refers specially to the promotion of flowering by a period of low temperature. Some important food plants, wheat, barley, rye have two kinds of varieties: winter and spring varieties.
  • The 'spring' variety are normally planted in the spring and come to flower and produce grain before the end of the growing season. Winter varieties, however, if planted in spring would normally fail to flower or produce mature grain within a span of a flowering season. Hence, they are planted in autumn. They germinate, and over winter come out as small seedlings, resume growth in the spring, and are harvested usually around mid- summer.

 

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