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Enlightening Research

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Electrical potential differences between plants and topsoil

Many soil properties influencing plant growth and yield can be identified and mapped with electrical geophysical methods, which explains recent advances in electrical conductivity method application in precision agriculture. Moreover, our recent studies have shown that soil electrical potentials influence plant growth directly and electrical geophysical methods can be used to monitor plant health (Fedotov and Pozdnyakov, 2001). The biopotentials or micro electrical potentials of the plant tissues and their effect on plant growth have been studied by plant physiologists for quite some time. However, practically no research has been conducted on natural electrical potentials between soil and a growing plant, or “macropotentials” of the plants.

Recently, we advanced to measure and research the natural electrical potentials between soil and growing plants (Pozdnyakov et al., 2006). Natural electrical potentials between soils of major genetic types and more than 100 species of native and cultural plants of Ukraine, Russia, and Philippines in different growing conditions have been studied in 2003-2005. The electrical potential difference between soil and a plant was always negative. This difference was highest during spring and for young plants in summer, and decreased in the fall when plants in Russia are ready for dormancy. Tropical plants showed higher potential differences than plants of temperate climate. The potentials for all plants decreased in a row flower-leaf-stem. Electrical potential of herbaceous plants is directly related with the leaf area and the highest potentials were observed for burdock, cow-parsnip, and young banana palms. The research is underway for establishing relationships between natural electrical potentials/resistivity of plants/soils and plant’s water stress (Terehova et al., 2007)