Saturday, December 4, 2021

Shedding Light on a Subject, or Not

Okay, I found something that's not depressing!

Here's a cool fact I never knew (did you?) about soy beans from Dwaine Eddie McGriff, an Agricultural Extension agent from Alabama:

These drone shots of a soybean field are a great example of soybeans being photoperiod-sensitive. The street lights provided continuous light and plants under them continued vegetatively. 

In this photo, the pole blocked the light and soybeans matured normally:

Like me, many of the people replying in the Twitter thread didn't understand what was going on in the photos at first, but others replied to clarify. 

The brown, dead-looking plants surrounding the green arc are a good thing to a farmer: those are harvestable soy beans. The plants that are still green and growing are not ready to harvest, which is bad. So the street light has screwed things up. 

I generally understand the idea of "photoperiod-sensitive" for perennial plants, because you can see its effects when we have a colder vs. warmer spring. Some plants come up later or sooner, and some don't, depending on whether they are photoperiod-sensitive or not. (I've always called it day-length-sensitive, in my nontechnical way. But I think it's part of the same thing, just not related to when the plant sets seed.) 

Anyway, I love these photos showing how a single, narrow pole casts a shadow that makes major difference in how a plant develops, as well as the unintended agricultural consequence of a streetlight, which no public works engineer would have ever considered.

Ben Tankersley, a high school senior who works for McGriff, worked with the drone that took the photos.

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