Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Professor touts plant stress study

CHANGING WEATHER:Developing agricultural techniques to counter adverse weather conditions due to climate change are needed to help growers

By Lin Yan-tung and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Cherry blossoms bloom in Taipei on Sunday.

Photo: Lin Yen-tung, Taipei Times

Weather abnormalities apparently linked to global warming underline the need for plant stress research to help commercial flower growers, National Taiwan University (NTU) horticulture and landscape architecture professor Yeh Te-ming (葉德銘) said.

The nation has witnessed abnormal temperatures and rainfall patterns since late last year, Yeh said.

This winter started out unseasonably warm, particularly in November last year, which was followed by snowfall in January, a persistent cold front last month and heavy rainfall this month, disrupting the natural plant flowering cycle nationwide, Yeh said.

For example, operators of giant taro flower farms on Yangmingshan (陽明山) in Taipei said that their crop typically blooms between March and April, but it has been delayed by about two weeks this year because of the snow in January, which damaged many buds.

Giant taros are cultivated in wet paddies and are more resistant to cold than other floral plants, the farmers said. The fact that they experienced commercial losses indicated that other flower growers likely suffered even greater disruptions that affected their plant yields, they added.

Sinyi Farmers’ Association Promotional Department instructor Chuan Chih-chien (全志堅) said that the plum blossoms in Nantou County’s Sinyi Township (信義) — a product that is important to local agriculture — had been adversely affected by the January rains, which felled many buds and sharply reduced flower yields.

In Taipei, the flowering of plum blossoms and cherry blossoms has also been delayed by the irregular weather, and the season for every flowering plant has been shortened this year, except for the Japanese camellia, the Taipei Parks and Streetlights Office said.

With global climate change, extreme cold, hot or wet conditions are certain to become more frequent, Yeh said.

Plant stress research focuses on developing agricultural techniques to counter adverse weather conditions due to global climate change, and great strides have been made in recent years, he said.

New weather patterns have already made a significant impact on the nation’s botanical environment, he said, citing as an example the upward migration of the Hypochaeris ciliata, a species that has retreated in recent years from areas with an elevation of 2,000m to 3,000m.

One of the two major methods for developing stress resistance in crops is selective breeding to develop hereditary resistance to specific adverse conditions, Yeh said.

For example, Taiwan’s heat-resistant chrysanthemums are the product of crossbreeding for cultivation in summer, he said.

The second method is to adjust the artificial environment of the plant. Today, many commercially valuable plants with a vulnerability to immersion are transplanted to greenhouses from the fields, or cultivated under a shelter until they passed the vulnerable stage of their life cycle and developed natural resistance, Yeh said.

Stress resistance research has been in development for many years and has been applied to numerous commercial plant species in the nation, including cabbages and flowers such as moth orchids and chrysanthemums, he added.

“Growers whose crops yields have been severely diminished by environmental changes should seriously consider using stress-

resistant plant growing techniques,” Yeh said.

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