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January Gardening Tips. Part 3. Pods, Roots, and Rabbits.

Jan 17, 2020
In the first January Gardening tips, toward the latter part, I got into discussing Corn and how the ears set and the kernels, etc. I wanted to show you how one type of plant works in relationship with the nutritional load at any specific time during the growing season. I also wanted to discuss a few other types of plants and how they function. The purpose was to show why we do certain activities at specific times so that we can enable the plant to grow and produce to its full genetic potential. This discussion is a continuation of that effort. As a side note, I got sidetracked by talking about a method of feeding the plants with discussion 2.  I felt like if we didn't discuss that aspect, that you might be lost. So we are back on course now and will discuss some interesting concepts.
The corn plant is what is considered to be a C-4 Carbon Plant Pathway type plant. In my opinion, I feel like this is very important to understand in a few words just what you are dealing with in specific plants. It suggests some of the better ways of treating the plant than almost any other concept. A C-4 plant is somewhat sort of a low IQ type plant, it is more mechanical and with very little variation; IE; when it is warm and the sun is shining, it grows. If you feed it, it grows, if you starve it it still grows, but the performance level is poor. It can be described much like a person with a low to moderate IQ, but a fully functional IQ none the less. A wonderful plant that contributes much more than could be expected, with only a moderate level of supervision, much like people in this IQ category. Then when we move up the scale to the over 100 IQ point to say maybe the 130 IQ mark, we see the C-3 Plants for the most part falling into this category.  Then with the CAM Carbon Plants, we have the IQ equivalent above 130. We won't be discussing the plants in the CAM level today but will focus on the C-3 type plants. The CAM types will come in another discussion. Within this category, we will look at Soybeans as they are a very complex plant that can adjust along the way. Also, we will look at Potatoes, as they are representative of the tubers and root type plants.
First off, we need to point out a few laws regarding the plant growing process. Those are these; #1- Everything with plant growth is controlled by Photosynthesis. This is sometimes referred to as "Photosynthate".  #2- Every plant's function is photosynthate driven. #3- Terminal Dominance, IE; the end game, is a function of photosynthate. This is the stage of the plant cycle of reproduction, where we get a result of the plant cycle; fruiting, seeds, etc. As you might recall in discussion #1 of this series we mentioned corn having certain points when certain "decisions" are made that affect the end game, IE; Terminal Dominance. As long as conditions are constant, then the outcome is predictable.  When we come to the C-3 plants, such as Soybeans and Potatoes, we see a more inter-activeness taking place. It is almost a situation where everything is in a state of constant, ongoing evaluation with the end game in mind.
In Soybeans, we see the full genetic potential ready to go at the beginning. From there it is a downhill run.  The flatter you can keep the downward curve, the better the production/offspring will be. The Soybean will start off the growth cycle by setting a full set of blossoms. The Soybean has the ability to monitor the photosynthate. Remember that the photosynthate reaction is dependant on the nutritional load of the soil.  So if the nutritional load isn't where it needs to be, the photosynthate won't function according to the genetic potential of the plant. So as the cycle progresses, the monitoring will suggest what nutrition is available and how many blossoms might be able to be supported by the nutrient load. The plant will then drop blossoms to meet the nutritional load from the soil.  If the nutrient load diminishes further then the blossom drop will continue. If the nutrient load improves, then the blossom drop will stop. Then as the cycle progresses, the pods will set based on the blossom load at a specific trigger point. But the process does not stop there. The evaluation will continue. If the nutrient load is constant, then no pod drop will take place. If the conditions drop, then the pods will drop according to the nutrient support load. Then at a certain trigger or shall we say tipping point, I like that term better, seeds will set in the pods. Then the process is carried over to the seeds. If the nutrient load will support a given number of seeds, then all is well if the conditions diminish, then the seeds in the pod will be aborted.  The author Donald Schriefer of the book, Agriculture in Transition, pg. 206 describes this whole situation as follows;
"Any plant will not set and hold more storage organs, (seeds) than it senses it can fill. The number of ears, pods or seeds it holds are determined at a certain stage of plant development and a plant will not allow any more seed organs to remain over and above the rate of photosynthesis, it is producing at that time".  So in essence, the Soybean plant will start out with high hopes and will downsize as it progresses through the growth cycle to ensure the end product of a strong and healthy seed.
An interesting phenom is that all of the C-3 Carbon Plant Pathway plants tend to follow this same pattern. Even though the seed mechanism might be varied.  A Potato plant follows this same pattern. Even though the Potato plant will produce seeds, which can be gathered and replanted. The seeds usually are produced early on in the potato plants' yearly cycle. But we are more concerned with the tuber and we use the tuber as the target of interest.  However, the mechanisms of the plant's self-monitoring and interactive adjustments are for the most part very similar to the Soybean plant. In reality more similar than dissimilar.  I mentioned Rabbits in the title of this discussion, and now we finally get around to mentioning them You might say that a Rabbit is a C-3 plant type animal. In their reproduction cycle, they behave just like a Soybean plant. With most animals, the reproduction cycle is much like a C-4 plant. Unless something directly interrupts the growth of the fetus, it will produce as determined at the conception. IE; if one egg is fertilized, one fetus is progressed to birth.  If 2 eggs, then 2 are progressed to birth. I think you get the picture. But with Rabbits, many factors are evaluated on a daily basis. If conditions are not secure for the doe, she can abort or reabsorb the babies, depending on the point of growth. Nutritional availability will determine the size of the litter, how many eggs are fertilized, and on an on.  This can carry on beyond birth. If the doe suspects that anything is potentially going to go bad, she will even eat the babies herself, rather than to have something get her babies or if they are not going to have the nutrition they need to grow to the point of becoming self-sufficient.
There is a situation that comes into play here that makes a rabbit function more like a C-4 plant, but the Soybean and Potato plant will remain a C-3 plant.  This has to do with drought conditions. A rabbit is much like the C-4 plant in that if the lack of water hits a certain point, death occurs. But with the C-3 plants, they will stop growing, then when water comes along, they start to grow again. The above-ground C-3 plants will go into a "downsizing" of the end result. But with below ground C-3 plants, the root or tuber will stop growing. That particular growth of root or tuber won't really start to grow again, as in starting where it left off, but rather it will stimulate the growth of a new root or tuber branching off from growth that was previously there. So these below ground C-3 plants won't do a start-stop-start cycle as long as the moisture is there for the photosynthate cycle to take place.
When you are dealing with the C-4 plants, such a Corn. They can be very forgiving when it comes to mistakes. Unless of course, those mistakes happen at the same time as "an evaluation" is taking place. As long as you supply nutrition and photosynthesis, they just grow and grow and develop. However, the shorter the growing season, the more forgiving they seem to be. But I think the forgiveness is by accident, as if in Sweet Corn, the type you get for the kitchen as in corn on the cob, is more because they are grown alongside other garden plants and tend to have plenty, but not too much nutrition, the right amount of water and so on. But when you get the corn out in the field as silage corn or grain corn, it becomes a different monster. You can apply fertilizers at different rates and intervals than you can with C-3 plants if you are planning for ultimate growth potential.
When you are dealing with C-3 plants, then the fertilization intervals and ultimately the nutrient loading must be more intensely applied. The C-3 plants are not as forgiving. This is where the Humus is more effective than with the C-4 plants. The nutrient load levels are very critical at essentially every day. Remember that we mentioned that this monitoring/evaluation is done on an ongoing basis. When a C-3 plant stops growing or diminishes in growth, it makes for a hard road to get it to keep on schedule for optimal growth to achieve the end game desired. But what is more than vital for the C-3 plants is to maintain a moisture level within certain parameters. Since most of your garden plants are of the C-3 pathway type, you must watch your moisture levels and make sure you don't water too heavy when you do water the plants. Then you must watch for the soil drying out. You must not allow your soil to dry out as that will create the start-stop-start growth cycle. You will have a few C-4 type plants in your garden, such as Sweet Corn. But with this type of corn, we sort of have a freak show going on as the sweet corn behaves more like it is a C-3 plant.  The freakiness of it makes it different than the typical field corn plant in that the corn is much sweeter and results in a much shorter plant in both structures and growing day length. So in this case, you just treat it as you do your other garden plants.
I introduced this whole idea of the various carbon plant pathway plants in an effort to help you understand the needs of plants as to water and fertilizer/nutritional needs. I have come to see that in order to explain these 3 pathways better, I really need to make it a separate discussion. So I will do that maybe as the next gardening tip discussion.  When verifying the data for this discussion, I had one of those ah ah moments in that I was reminded by the information of a learning experience of long ago.  You know the brick to the side of the head type of things. What this is all about is that it made me realize that the majority of my farming/gardening experience has been with C-3 plants. Out in the field/farming situations, it has been small grains, legumes, and tubers, as in potatoes. I have a solid background in these plants and can keep up and run with the big boys. But the brick moment was when I realized why I wasn't successful with plants like Silage and Grain Corn and other misc C-4 plants. I have also had a similar experience in trying to grow CAM type plants. So the experience? Trying to grow the C-4 and CAM plants with the same rationale and applications of the C-3 pathway plant requirements. Yes, you do some of the same things, but it is the timing and several other related type requirements. This is why I am trying to convey to you this aspect to your gardening.
Also, this is hugely important in understanding the quality of the Essential Oils and Herbs. In my opinion, I do not see how a person can truly understand the nature of the essential oil donor plant and the essential oil that comes from that plant and do a quality overlay and conduct an evaluation of a sample of oil, without first understanding the Carbon Pathway material. As I have said, there is much more to understanding essential oil quality than just a GC/MS report, much, much more. There is so much more to explain, so I will have to do that separate discussion on Carbon Pathways. Please hang in there with me, as it will become much clearer when I walk you through the Carbon Pathways. I will also include some of the reasons behind the various methods of cultivation that I have discussed in earlier discussions. It all ties in together.
So with that, we will bring this discussion to a close. Thank you for your time and interest. I appreciate it and I hope you gain much more than it costs you. Hey, your time is worth something, in fact, a lot.

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