Secret of seed growth all smoke and molecules

Lee Poulsen
Fri, 09 Jul 2004 00:40:25 PDT
Looks like my question is answered in paragraphs 7 and 8.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena area, California, USDA Zone 9-10


Secret of seed growth all smoke and molecules
  By Belinda Hickman

AUSTRALIAN scientists have beaten three overseas research groups to  
identify one of biology's holy grails - the molecule in smoke that  
makes plant seeds germinate after bushfires.

  A team of researchers from Perth's Kings Park botanical gardens, the  
University of Western Australia and Murdoch University will today  
announce in the international journal Science they have identified a  
chemical among the 4000 found in smoke that triggers seed growth.

  The chemical, from a group of molecules known as butenolide, was not  
previously known to biological science.

  The discovery has the potential to provide multi-million dollar  
benefits in agriculture. It could dramatically improve bushland  
regeneration and landcare programs and offer a new method of weed  

  The science director at Kings Park, Kingsley Dixon, and his  
colleagues, associate professors Emilio Ghisalberti and Robert Trengove  
and PhD student Gavin Flematti, have beaten well-funded competitors in  
California, South Africa and Germany to identify the chemical.

  "I believe it was having access to unique Australian plants that gave  
our research a leading edge," Dr Dixon said yesterday. "It's another  
celebration of our biodiversity."

  The group has already patented the molecule. The researchers are  
looking for a company to develop a commercial product, which Dr Dixon  
predicted could be available to home gardeners within five years and to  
industry and landcare groups even sooner.

  The molecule - which they want to call gavinone after Mr Flematti - is  
so powerful that a concentration equivalent to a third of a teaspoon in  
a domestic swimming pool is enough to germinate seeds from a range of  
vegetables, trees, grasses and native species such as kangaroo-paw and  
flannel flower.

  Researchers say the potential is enormous.

  Dr Dixon said the group had been interested in cracking the conundrum  
ever since South African botanists proved 15 years ago it was bushfire  
smoke, not heat and ash, that germinated seeds.

  His group confirmed in 1993 the theory applied to Australian species.

  © The Australian

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