FARMERS must learn new things every day. If they do not take time to learn, they will confine themselves to traditional stereotypes that affect production.
This winter, many farmers have stayed out of their fields because of frost.
However, some have taken the risk as an opportunity. Despite employing the usual frost prevention methods like mulching and burning fires, they have also used chemicals to boost their crops’ resilience against frost.
This July, temperatures have been extremely low at night.
It is important to know some of the new ways of dealing with frost. There are chemicals that have been produced with anti-freeze proteins (AFPs), which is also known as ice binding proteins (IBPs).
These have evolved into an important adaptation to sub-zero temperatures.
Plant AFPs have only been identified in freeze tolerant species (those that are able to survive extracellular freezing).
But plant AFPs have not been able to completely prevent ice formation in plant.
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In contrast, fish and most insect AFPs prevent freezing in some species.
AFPs, especially those of insects (as they are generally exposed to considerably lower temperatures than fish), work better. Initially, fish AFPs were employed in these studies.
But as insect AFPs with higher levels of antifreeze activity were discovered, these have become the AFPs of choice in plant transformation studies.
Some studies have produced transgenic plants that have exhibited improved cold tolerance of 1 to 3 °C compared to the wild-type. None of the studies with transgenic plants have yet attained a sufficient level to protection plants. Progress to this point indicates that more significant results are achievable.
If so, the billions of dollars lost annually to frost damage of sensitive crops could be avoided.
Geographic ranges and growing seasons could also be expanded.
Locally, there is a product that is on the market called Maxprolin.
Though it has not been popularised, it is worth trying for farmers, especially those in market gardening.
Maxprolin improves plant response to cold weather, frost, waterlogging, or drought.
It also promotes seed germination and root hairs formation.
According to various salespeople, it promotes the formation of Chlorophyll B in plants and increases the photosynthesis process.
Remember the longer the night the higher chances of a frost attack.
Plant scientists have also claimed that Maxprolin increases sugar accumulation in cells and intercellular transport processes.
It is scientifically proven that proline metabolism affects plant response to stress.
If there are any products that farmers have come across that help in winter, please share so that we can all beat the frost bug in our crops.
- Gwabanayi is a practising journalist and a farmer in his own right. — 0772 865 703 or [email protected]