Friday, April 8, 2016



After reading Victor Ivan’s article I felt like reproducing a piece of a chapter called Plant Watching (written for for elder statesmen).

Since Victor also fall into elder statesman category it is worth for his reading too.

I got interested in water lillies over the past three years and found it extremely difficult to make them flower.
After two years of waiting time, just yesterday, I noticed that there were two of them about to flower.
Mind you I look at them daily when I feed the fish.
The flowering is timed by a weather cycle (including ambient temperature) exacting to nano seconds, is my gut feeling.
They have over 20 odd sensing mechanism,even modern scientists have failed to work out.
We have only five.

Evolution has made us upright but without three mirrors we cannot drive a bus or a lorry.
We can run forward but we cannot run backwards. or turn sidewards abruptly.
I think even elephants so big can turn sidewards if they wanted.
If we believe god had created (which is totally untrue) us he has made lot of mistakes including not being able to understand plant senses.

Without plants this world cannot exist.

They were the first to evolve.

We had over 2000 rice varieties to suit any weather (including probably global warming) in this country.
Because of our wrong agriculture policy we have lost all but 50.
America killed the Philippines Rice Industry and now the farmers (two were killed recently in riots) are fighting for a meal.

Before they killed the rice industry they took away all the genetic material and stored them in super-coolers.

Plant Sense
Plants, unlike animals, do not have ears, eyes, or tongues to help them feel and acquire information from their environment. But they do sense their environment in other ways and respond accordingly. Scientists have shown that plants can detect various wavelengths and use colors to tell them what the environment is like. When a plant grows in the shadow of another, it will send a shoot straight up towards the light source. It has also been shown that plants know when it is day and when it is night. Leaf pores on plants open up to allow photosynthesis during the daytime and close at night to reduce water loss. Plants also respond to ultraviolet light by producing a substance that is essentially a sunscreen so that they do not get sunburned.
Plants can sense weather changes and temperatures as well.
Plants have specific regulators, plant hormones, minerals and ions that are involved in cell signaling and are important in environmental sensing. In fact, without these, the plants will not grow properly.
Here are some examples of plant signaling.

1. Plant shoots grow up and roots grow down because they are responding opposite to the force of gravity. Shoots grow in the opposite direction of gravity (up) while roots grow towards gravity (down). The root cap senses force of gravity, transforms that information into a signal regulated by hormones and ions that the growing region of the root can understand.
Scientists still do not know exactly what the signal is.
This signaling results in one side of the root growing faster than the other, so the root curves downward.

2. Plants also respond to wind or touch.
If plants are in a windy spot they build thicker and tougher wind resistant stems. They can also sense when insects are on them. This can cause them to produce a chemical defense system.
The six authors—among them Eric D. Brenner, an American plant molecular biologist; Stefano Mancuso, an Italian plant physiologist; František Baluška, a Slovak cell biologist; and Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, an American plant biologist—argued that the sophisticated behaviors observed in plants cannot at present be completely explained by familiar genetic and biochemical mechanisms. Plants are able to sense and optimally respond to so many environmental variables—light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants—that there may exist some brain like information processing system to integrate the data and coordinate the plant’s behavioral response.
The authors pointed out that electrical and chemical signaling systems have been identified in plants which are homologous to those found in the nervous systems of animals. They also noted that neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate have been found in plants, though their role remains unclear.
Indeed, many of the most impressive capabilities of plants can be traced to their unique existential predicament as beings rooted to the ground and therefore unable to pick up and move when they need something or when conditions turn unfavorable.
The “sessile life style,” as plant biologists term it, calls for an extensive and nuanced understanding of one’s immediate environment, since the plant has to find everything it needs, and has to defend itself, while remaining fixed in place.
A highly developed sensory apparatus is required to locate food and identify threats.
Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty distinct senses, including analogues of our five:
Smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies);
Sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow);
Touch (a vine or a root “knows” when it encounters a solid object);
It has been discovered, even sound.
In a recent experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals. Another experiment, done in Mancuso’s laboratory and not yet published, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow “hear” the sound of flowing water.
At least it can sense the vibration.

Victor Ivan's Agricultural Concepts

Victor Ivan's Agricultural Concepts

Victor Ivan writes good stuff, especially politically but his scientific notions are bizarre by itself.
Just read this week's article by him.
Since he is not a biological scientist, I totally vindicate him on gross scientific errors, including, kidney diseases.

Way back in 1970s we had kidney problems including in children.
90% of children died within 2 years.

One incident I will recount here.
We had a woman with kidney problem.
Probably tuberculosis related.
Surgeon took the relatively normal kidney out at surgery.
I suppose he was drunk.
She went into total renal failure.
I had to managed the case until her death.
I was only an intern and could not report or take action.
Point here is that there was no renal unit even in Colombo hospital at that time (I worked in Colombo General, too) or intensive care units.
We as young doctors were open about the primitive conditions and slowly the system improved but nowhere comparable to western countries, even now.
I of course left and worked abroad and never wanted to join the public system.

Private sector, I worked was even worse.

I used to send blood specimens to Singapore, since I could not believe the reports of all the private (public too) hospitals in Colombo, when I was working there few moons ago.

There is something called accreditation of laboratories and hospitals in the West.

One cannot just open a clinic or a putative hospital like a corner shop.
When General Medical Council of UK visited in 1970s they provided a report and the government then probably put that into dustbin, I believe.
So by default I had to give up clinical medicine in this country.

I did not want to cheat my patients and myself.
The last thing I do when I leave a country abroad is to get a full check up of my family.

Coming back to Victor Ivan's interpretation of agriculture and biosphere, his interpretation are totally lopsided.
If you visit this (my) web site and read my books at Amazon you would get a better picture of ecological disaster we are heading.
The global warming is peaking and we would lose most of our biodiversity.
There is no program to counteract the eco-devastation.

I suppose Victor reads my blog post below, reproduced.
I have only mentioned ladybirds but we have lost most of our butterflies and dragon flies.

My Roof Top garden is a heaven for a few of the species including dragon flies and butterflies.

Mini Garden Concept
Mini Garden Concept was something built into my sphere of activity but failed to materialize due to constant movement related to my work assignments.

It actually dawned on me that living in the topic is a luxury.

My family hated skyscrapers and confined living quarters.
I always bargained for a good house / garden even if the job was in a far remote corner of this planet.
Once, I had few exotic plants on the windowsill and had to come home for my father's funeral, for 10 days in winter.
None of the plants survived.
I gave up any miniature adventure with plants until I landed in the West Coast of New Zealand south island.

Even there I never saw any ladybirds in the garden.

They use lot of insecticides in agriculture and one day drove with the family past Reefton to collect few specimens but they never survived in the semi-urban garden.
Even here in Kandy we used to have many different ladybirds but not anymore due to liberal and unscientific use of insecticides and poisonous imported fertilizes.

But our children were enthusiastic and we always had mini garden and collecting specimens were their task.
Tray used for collecting rubber latex was the base.
On top of the soil mount in a corner was a plastic water tank.
The water was supplied with a plastic saline bottle hung on a tree branch.
All the tubes (saline tubes perforated with safety pins) were hidden under the soil.
The design was left for them to manicure.
It was total success but a mini garden in a bottle was bit of a miss.
Rock garden was another concept.

We even had a big jute plant but it is no more.

I got busy, they grew up and the concept went into hibernation till lately.

The strangest thing I noticed recently was that all those tiny specimens we collected are still in our tiny garden after 30 years.
How they survived without any attention, I cannot figure out.
I know my friends from Colombo when they visit us take few specimens of ferns for indoor decorations but they die a natural death.
I counted at least 7 types scattered all over.
When the domestic aid and the cleaning man comes (he is not a gardener but weeder) I have to give special instructions not to uproot and upset the tiny tots (ferns) in the ecosystem.
Strangely my rooftop water garden also have few specimens taking root.
Mini garden is a workable concept but need constant attention.