The Effect of the Interaction of Citric Acid and Drought on the Growth of Spotted Gum (Corymbia Maculata) Seedlings

Author(s): Mark Burns

Context: Abiotic stress, and particularly drought, is a major threat to plant growth generally and world food security specifically and it is important for humanity to come up with ways to reduce the impact of drought and abiotic stress on plant growth. This is particularly important in the context of global climate change. Earlier research by a range of researchers has hinted that the use of cheap citric acid in treating plants may induce enhanced stress response pathways which may assist in enhancing drought tolerance. However, how altered stress response pathways affect plant growth patterns, and how these may affect drought tolerance, has not been well researched.

Methods: Spotted Gum seedlings were grown with and without initial treatment with citric acid, and with and without simulated drought.

Key results: Treatment with citric acid resulted in plants growing larger and more fibrous root systems compared to control plants. The effect was stronger under moderate drought.

Implications: Exogenous treatment of cotyledon roots with citric acid has tremendous potential for enhancing plant root systems under moderate drought. Resulting enhanced root systems could be expected to enhance a plant’s access to soil water and thus improve drought tolerance. Reduced shoot to root ratios could also be expected to improve drought tolerance of young plants in the early growth phase.

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