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How Do Plants Grow ?

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reports that 923 million people worldwide were undernourished in 2007.Dr Karine David and her team at the University of Auckland are conducting research that helps to understand how plants grow and can be applied to maximising plant growth, contributing to a global solution.

Earth has a total land area of 13,056 million hectares and there are around 6 billon people on the planet. If this land resource was divided up equally, there would be around 2.1 hectares of land for every person on the Earth. However the world is not divided up evenly. New Zealand has a land mass around the same as the United Kingdom. We have just over 4 million people while in the United Kingdom there are almost 61 million people living in the same land area.

The biocapacity of land is a measure of biological productivity and is measured in global hectares (Gha). A global hectare is 1 hectare of biologically productive space using world-average productivity levels. New Zealand has 218 Gha per sq km compared to Australia’s 29Gha per sq km (FOA, 2008).

So what will it take to feed the expected 9 billion people who will inhabit the Earth by 2050? The issue is centred on energy, and maximising plant growth is critical. All food chains start with plants that convert light energy into chemical energy via photosynthesis. No matter what humans are eating, plants are the starting point for ensuring that there is adequate food for the world’s populations.

Plant growth is influenced by genetic factors, environmental factors (water, carbon dioxide, light, nutrients) and hormones within the plant. The Plant Molecular Sciences Lab at the University of Auckland has a large team of scientists who work on understanding of plant growth and collaborate with Plant and Food Research to produce healthier fruit faster with less environmental impact.


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