Agricultural Drought is only the absence of Blessing. So how do we mitigate this?
There are many pieces of the puzzle in order to mitigate drought as everything you do is connected and neglecting one component can lead you on a fast downward spiral.
We have noticed year in and year out drought is becoming more and more of a challenge for the agricultural sector. Many farmers do not know what to do nor do they know where to start and how to mitigate this absence.
Farmers can mitigate drought effects in their plants the same way Mother Nature has mitigated all environmental challenges for the past 400 million years.
We need to understand what is happening within the plants during drought.
When plants are going through a drought what is essentially happening is plants are becoming dehydrated. A similar effect if an athlete tried to run the Boston marathon under the sun and not drinking any water. Once dehydration takes effect in plants the moisture content lowers and cell pressure drops within the plant. Once this chemistry starts happening within the plant cells all chemical processes begin to slow down. As the systems starts to fail plants will not photosynthesize efficiently nor properly and the plant and plant cells become weaker.
There are 5 Key Components for plants to Mitigate Drought.
Efficient Photosynthesis, Symbiosis between the Microbial Community and their Host, Lipid Formation, Healthy Root Systems, and Mineral Supplements.
The first key component in mitigating drought is the symbiosis between the microbial community and the Host (plants). The microbial community that lives within the rhizosphere are an important and critical factor during drought. For instance fungi have the capability of accessing water that is deep down in the soil matrix and bringing water to the root zone that roots themselves are unable to access. With a vibrant microbial community they will continue to release minerals from the soil matrix and supply nutrients and water to their host.
The second key component in mitigating drought are plants need to be photosynthesizing efficiently. When plants are properly photosynthesizing they are sending and storing energy into the rhizosphere as root exudates. Exudates are in the form of sugars, organic acids, and fats etc. excluding minerals. Exudates cause a chemical and a symbiotic interaction between the rhizosphere and surrounding microbial environment. For instance with organic compounds being released in the form of exudates exiting through the roots entering into the soil environment can cause an immediate physical and chemical response to the rhizosphere. These organic acids can chelate nutrients naturally to cause a chemical reaction to increase nutrient availability within the rhizosphere. Having enough bioavailable nutrients is key to the mitigation of drought which causes plant stress.
The third key component in mitigating drought is plants need a strong and healthy root system. The biomass of the plants root systems should be greater or equal to the biomass above ground. Strong and healthy root systems have a correlation when plants are photosynthesizing very efficiently. The foundation to have these two key components is proper and adequate mineral nutrition in an available form to the plant.
The fourth key component in mitigating drought is the formation of Lipids. Lipids provide cells with a protective layer to form strong cell membranes. Around the cell membranes they are protected by two lipid layers and between the two lipid layers is the compound Calcium Pectate. When plants start producing increased levels of lipid content plants will have much stronger and thicker cell wall membranes which will prevent the majority of the moisture lost from plants and will provide more energy to mitigate drought stress.
The fifth key component in mitigating drought is providing the proper mineral supplements when needed. Mineral Nutrition is what makes the foundation and is the backbone to all systems. Microbial communities need minerals to construct their bodies and plants need minerals and mineral enzyme cofactors to complete metabolic processes. As farmers when it comes to mitigating drought and one system fails we need to provide the proper response in a sustainable and responsible manner. Plants during drought stress are not getting adequate amounts of minerals and moisture from the soil matrix. When this occurs we have to supplement the plant via foliar feeding with plant mineral supplements to enhance the photosynthetic capacity to keep adequate amounts of lipid formation, and continue to build healthy and strong root systems.
We must keep our soils covered to reduce moisture loss and keep these 5 key components in check. You will see a major difference in crop response and your plants will be more drought tolerant.
Working with and mimicking Mother Nature has been proven for over 400 million years that plants can adapt to any environment if provided the right care and the farmer uses all the tools in his tool box.