About

 

Plant Systems

Autotrophs or primary producers essentially provide the energy that supports all lifeforms. Their sessile nature affords them unparalleled plasticity to stimuli, dynamic resource allocation strategies, and biological immortality as in the 5000+ years old Pinus longaeva. Their superior vascular structures and remedial strategy for hydraulic dysfunction is an engineering enigma. The co-evolutionary relationships, communication, and symbiosis between plants and soil microbes, and pollinators further provoke fundamental inter-species behavioral science. Plant systems connect the links and translate emerging properties into adaptable solutions applicable to current anthropogenic challenges such as food security and urban heat island effect.

Research Summary

I investigate how plant-based biosystems function from organismic to landscape scales and applications of their emerging properties to carbon neutral anthropogenic systems including agro-ecosytems, urban ecosystems and plant productivity under marginal growth conditions.

QUESTIONS

  1. Are terrestrial plants limited by the demands of physiological functionality (PF)? Pollinating agents, water, light,.. factors directly mediate sexual reproduction, hydraulic function/transport, and photosynthesis respectively. Can alternate factors adequately moderate PF to drive productivity?
  2. Are current physiological functions the consequence of adaptation over time? For instance if soil did not constitute micro or macro nutrients, will plants have evolved different physiological trajectories commensurate on available growth mineral resources?

The former question holds the foundation of modern biological progress and agricultural advances such as fertilizers used in crop production. However, it is limited over time. For instance, a fit of yield response to increasing fertilizer rates in the Michaelis-Menten kinetic curve shows a proportionality limit in which an exponential rate of fertilizer input is required for a small change in crop yield. Meanwhile, fertilizer usage impact global Nitrous cycle and ecosystems. This is a serious problem as food demand is increasing with population and economic growth. I investigate alternative approaches. Here, it is conjectured that when biological tools that regulate phenotype plasticity are optimized, the organism(s) become opportunistic and capitalize on available resources regardless of how limiting they seem. Thus, they optimize their functionality to make the most of available resources. We have proposed the ‘Limiting-Stress-Elimination Hypothesis’ and tested it in monoculture legumes under semi-arid savanna conditions.

The sessile nature of plants affords them highly plasticity index (i.e they adapt quickly to their growth conditions). It is thus contentious to assume that any growth space is a “natural” environment, thereby opens the opportunity for unlimited applications plant functional process and behavior. I test this hypothesis on human-modified systems such as agricultural and engineered ecosystems. Applications of research is demonstrated in ‘biostimulation using n-hB crop growth promoter as fertilizer alternative, and engineered thermoGreenWalls™ system as cooling tower alternative for ‘heat rejection’ in urban infrastructures. Our work allows us to improve plant productivity under extreme unconventional conditions.

 

Selected works

  • Modeling of tree-pollinator systems.
  • Heat and mass transfer in plant-porous media: engineered green cooling tower technology for heat rejection & carbon storage. Patented tech prototype, thermoGreenWalls ™
  • Non-hormonal biostimulants (n-hB) growth promoter. Successful trials in crops and tree spp e.g Paper birch (Betula papyrifera), radish (Raphanus sativus L.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), egg plant (Solanum spp), pepper (Capsicum spp), soybean (Glycine max). Outperforms inorganic N fertilizer input in field trials with high soil retention, zero GHG emissions, and maintain metabolic and genetic composition.
  • Physical regulation of stomatal oscillation and non-light limiting photosynthesis in Helianthus annuus.
  • Relationship in foliar anatomy, morpho-geometry, and ecophysiology: studies on Acer rubrum distribution across an elevation gradient in trap-rock mountains along the Connecticut River valley, New England.
  • Effect of citrus ACP vector deterrent (colloidal biofilm) on the photosynthesis, gas exchange, optical properties of citrus leaves (Valencia & Hamlin cultivars).


Innovations

n-hB

Novel growth promoter that modulate physiological function, stress tolerance and optimize yield.

Green Cooling Tower

Applied thermodynamics and engineering design to transform the wetland functionality into cooling tower for urban infrastructure heat rejection and carbon capture.

Polli-phys model

Integrating pollination and physiological parameters to optimize yield prediction in self-incompatible perennial crops.

News

Collaborators, Industry, Service

Transformative science is linking discoveries and inventions in the plant systems to 21 century challenges in Food Security, Engineering and Climate Change.

Collaborators

 

North America

– Berlyn lab, Yale School of Environment.
– O’hern lab, Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science/Department of Applied Physics.
Urban Ecology & Design lab.

Europe

– Agroecology lab, University of Gottingen

Asia

– STAT lab, School of Engineering, Weslake University

Australia

– Felson lab, School of Architecture, University of Melborne
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