How to Grow and Care for the Plants in Your House Most house plants are hybrids of plant species that grow wild, somewhere in the world A good rule of thumb for keeping your house plants healthy is to try to match the same environment from which they originated.
Print Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life.
It was inand Loladze was studying for his Ph. Against a backdrop of glass containers glowing with bright green algae, a biologist told Loladze and a half-dozen other graduate students that scientists had discovered something mysterious about zooplankton.
Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished.
When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth.
How could more algae be a problem? The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive.
By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.
Loladze used his math training to help measure and explain the algae-zooplankton dynamic. He and his colleagues devised a model that captured the relationship between a food source and a grazer that depends on the food. They published that first paper in But Loladze was also captivated by a much larger question raised by the experiment: Just how far this problem might extend.
Could the same problem affect grass and cows? What about rice and people? Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same.
And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat? It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat.
For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world.
Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: Ina landmark study of fruits and vegetables found that everything from protein to calcium, iron and vitamin C had declined significantly across most garden crops since The researchers concluded this could mostly be explained by the varieties we were choosing to grow.
Plants need carbon dioxide to live like humans need oxygen. Last year, the planet crossed over the parts per million threshold; scientists predict we will likely reach parts per million within the next half-century—essentially twice the amount that was in the air when Americans started farming with tractors.
It has also been useful ammunition for politicians looking for reasons to worry less about the implications of climate change.
In fact, they might be inversely linked. As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food.
This makes plants grow, but it also leads them to pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc. Inwhile a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, Loladze published a seminal research paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a leading journal, arguing that rising CO2 and human nutrition were inextricably linked through a global shift in the quality of plants.
In the paper, Loladze complained about the dearth of data: Among thousands of publications he had reviewed on plants and rising CO2, he found only one that looked specifically at how it affected the balance of nutrients in rice, a crop that billions of people rely on.ABOUT US: The "Courage to Grow Scholarship" was created to help students realize their college dreams.
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