Exploiting Hydrotropism and Hydropatterning in Wheat Plants to Boost Growth
Aaron Zhao
Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary
Floor Location : M 062 R

Land plants are incredibly skilled at adapting to their environment. From developing complex root systems for maximizing nutrient absorption to controlling how they utilize their energy and water, these green organisms undergo numerous processes to maintain their own survival. However, climate change is undermining the efficiency of plant growth, leading to less food supply as novel environmental problems like increasing temperatures and drier soil damage crops. What further aggravates the seriousness of this scenario is that the global population is projected to grow to nearly 11 billion people by the end of 2100, meaning there will be more mouths to feed; therefore, crop demand should increase simultaneously.

The goal of this project is to combat this growing agricultural problem by creating a watering system that exploits two of wheat plants' natural adaptive abilities: hydrotropism (ability to sense water in its surroundings and grow towards the source) and hydropatterning (ability to develop new lateral roots in response to unfavorable environments). I hypothesized that wheat plants' hydrotropism and hydropatterning abilities can be exploited to create longer, more abundant lateral roots in its root system (which would not only strengthen the plant's tolerance to drier soil, but also promote plant growth rate). A watering system was designed that strategically waters the peripheral region of the root system of plants, which maintains soil dryness in the inner region, allowing for the wheat plant to hydropattern, while leaving the peripheral region wet, so the lateral roots could grow outwards, potentially extending lateral root length as it searches for the source of moisture. Through experimentation, I concluded that the system does promote lateral root growth, increasing the average length of lateral roots in the experimental group to exceed that of the control group, while increasing root density. It was observed that the height of wheat plants in the experimental group was on average taller than the control group. I hope that this concept will inspire scientists to develop more effective ways of promoting crop growth with the help of technology.