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Growing Food

Harriet Mella on the science of water handling and drought resilience in plants

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Those of you who’ve been following this show for a while have watched my fascination with water and its role in every ecosystem grow over the years. By now, between my professional experience, the courses I’ve taken, and the research I’ve done, I feel quite competent in working with land in a practical way to restore its cycles and functionality on the land. Where my understanding is still lacking is in the cutting edge science of the way that plants use and interact with water. I’m no research scientist and don’t hold any degrees in biology or ecology, but I’m fascinated to go deeper into the micro workings of water at cellular levels to understand how we can better manage the plants and other living beings in order to oc´create the highest potential of ecosystem function on the land we interact with. 

With that very small and achievable goal in mind, I reached out to my friend and one of my favorite guests on this show to help me to understand the deeper biological and physical workings water within plants.
Harriet is an independent research scientist from Austria known for her work uncovering the unexplained phenomena of plant growth and development. Informed by her background in microbiology, mycology, and biochemistry, Harriet has a unique capacity to describe little-known connections between emerging biological research and agriculture. Her objective is to use the scientific background that we have to introduce agricultural methods that are more resilient and also low input for farmers benefit.

In this conversation we explore the observations in Harriet’s garden that prompted her to begin looking deeper into why some plants wilt and struggle in hot and dry conditions, while others are able to continue growing and even thrive. She introduces me to some of the lesser known capabilities of plants to cycle water internally and overcome drought conditions. 

We also talk about the indications that anyone can observe in plants that demonstrate their health and resilience to drought conditions as well as some of the practical management changes in the soil that can promote better water handling in crops. 

A lot of innovation has also been happening lately in the field of foliar feeding due to the potential of reverse transpiration through leaves and stems, but Harriet also has some important criteria for growers to consider to ensure that their foliar applications are effective and not causing unintended damage. 

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  1. Bethany on February 13, 2023

    On iTunes this episode has the intro from the host and then goes silent as it cuts over to the interview. Might be worth double checking for technical difficulties!

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