Croplink - Cure for Common Cold Crop?

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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A chemical best known as a fever reducer and pain reliever for humans may also protect young cereal grain and row-crop plants.

Salicylic acid (SA), an active component in aspirin, occurs naturally in many plants at low levels and functions as a hormone. It's been known for some time that increasing SA levels in plants can induce resistance to certain biotic stresses such as disease pathogens.

Iowa State University (ISU) research shows slightly increasing SA in plants could also boost resiliency to abiotic stresses such as freezing temperatures. Even though spinach was used as an initial test plant in a laboratory setting, researcher Rajeev Arora predicts similar results for crops like winter wheat, corn and soybeans.

"Plants are plants. I like to believe this could work on row crops," says Arora, an ISU plant physiologist and horticulture professor leading the SA research. Wheat farmers who watched consecutive nights of below-zero temperatures during spring 2020 would likely warm to the concept.

More testing is needed for horticulture and for row crops in laboratory and field environments for further evaluating the efficacy and practicality of this treatment, he notes.

But, Arora is hopeful extremely small doses of SA diluted in water or nutrient solutions, and applied by subirrigation or spraying could be a practical, low-cost way to protect vulnerable plants for at least a couple of days if freezing weather is forecast.

> Emily Unglesbee and Matt Wilde contributed to this report

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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