990 RECENT ADVANCES IN PLANT RESPONSE TO MECHANICAL STRESS: THEORY AND APPLICATION

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1165

Brief, periodic seismic (shaking) or thigmic (contact rubbing) stress treatments applied to plants growing in a wind-protected environment typically reduce but strengthen vegetative growth and often inhibit reproductive development. Cell division and cell enlargement both are affected. Mechanically dwarfed plants accumulate less leaf area than do undisturbed controls and undergo temporary stomatal aperture reduction following an episode of stress, leading to reduced photosynthetic productivity. Vibration or mild shaking may lead to a slight stimulation of plant growth. Most classes of phytohormones have been implicated to mediate different growth responses to mechanical stress. Physical perturbation turns on the transcription of several genes coding for calmodulin-like proteins. Calcium chelators and calmodulin inhibitors partially negate effects of thigmic stress. Growth rate responses of naive seedlings are immediate and dramatic, suggesting turgor collapse, whereas recoveries are slow and sometimes partial, suggesting reduced wall extensibility in the cell enlargement zone. Mechanical stress may be used for height control of intensively cultivated bench crops or to physically toughen bedding plants prior to outdoor transplant. Physiological hardening remains a question. Mechanical height control avoids use of chemicals but increases risk of wounding and pathogen infection.

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