Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Okra: Understanding a Plant From the Bottom Up

(CLICK PICTURES TO ENLARGE AND ENJOY)



Walking through the propagation section of the greenhouse on a cold, rainy Saturday morning, I came across a roomful of bright green sprouts unaffected by the ascending storm battering the plastic casing of the greenhouse.  These resilient babies were looking to take their first step on a long journey from seed to fruit.  The propagation room is a special section of the greenhouse where life begins, the birthplace for many of the delicious plants that will eventually be transplanted out to the greenhouse beds and rolling fields outside.  This Stork's nest gives babies a competitive advantage against the challenging wilderness that awaits them in the ground.  When direct seeding, plants will have to compete for nutrients with weeds and predators looking to devour their tender little leaves.  Especially in a greenhouse, where economic efficiency requires every square inch to be monitored closely, a farmer wants to maximize the yield efficiency of their crops and ensure that each bed is able to produce the strongest, healthiest plants possible.  In the progation room, everything from tomatoes to lettuces, okra to artichokes are being prepared for their life on the farm...



Once mature and strong enough to fight their own battles, these little seedlings will be transplanted to continue on their journey to the table.  Artichokes and tomatoes are seeded in the propagation room in February and March respectively 8 weeks before they are transplanted.



This Okra is seeded about 6 weeks before it is ready to be transplanted out to the fields where it can grow tall, sometimes up to 7 feet or taller.  But these green leaves don't look like Okra exactly, the intelligent and complex inner workings of plants are fascinating to say the least.  What we are looking at below are the initial leaves, called cotyledons that develop to test the waters before the plant's true leaves develop.


A recently germinated baby Okra getting ready for it's move to the field.  The germination of a dicot plant, like this baby Okra, consists of three developing sections, the radicle (roots), hypocotyl (stem), and the cotyledon (first leaves).


Radicle (root); the moist, germinating seed first sends out a radicle straight down into the soil to begin the root development.  Establishing a base, a foundation for the plant to develop from.  The... 


hypocotyl, or initial stem, emerges which grows upwards, towards the sun and will eventually become the mature stem of the plant.  As the hypocotyl reaches the surface, the...



cotyledon, or first leaves, emerge.  Although these two little round leaves won't last through the lifetime of the plant, they will help the plant breath until the true leaves develop.








Soon all these beauitful plants will make their way to the next stage of life.  The spring is such an incredible time on the farm.  After months of struggle, slow growth and bitter cold, the ground finally warms up and everything begins to grow quickly.  With this warmth, comes growth and with this growth comes beautiful colors and the entire greenhouse lights up.  The propogation room is an intrical part of the efficiency of the farm and I'm definitely looking forward to getting some more experience.

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