Fuel Log 1.0 – Grass and Photosynthesis

Most of us know photosynthesis is the basis for all life on our planet. Photosynthesis is the process of turning carbon into plant energy and takes place in the chloroplast. The formula is simple but the process can be complicated, especially when environmental conditions are not favorable. It all begins with carbon dioxide and water. Light from the sun powers a reaction converting CO2 and water into oxygen and carbohydrate. With this process the plant has now found a way to harness the energy from the sun and transform it into a raw source of power. This raw material, carbohydrate, will later be metabolized into an even more powerful source of energy. So what does turf grass and photosynthesis have to do with each other? The success of your turf strongly depends on your plant’s ability to complete the photosynthetic process. More often than not when you see “expired” turf, the photosynthetic process has failed for one reason or another. On golf courses superintendents are forced to maintain putting surfaces lower than an eighth of an inch at times. That means as demands for plant fuel increase the factory for producing this fuel is being downsized. At this point the energy deficit is subsidized by the turf plant’s root system. Plant roots are a wonderful “bank account” full of carbohydrates; the fuel made from photosynthesis. As the demand for carbohydrate increases the plant begins to make “withdrawals” from the root system. Ideally enough “deposits” have been made in the spring of the year to support the summer “spending”.

What happens to the carbohydrates produced in photosynthesis and withdrawn from the root system? The raw fuel produced in photosynthesis is shipped to a place called the mitochondria for further “refining”. In the mitochondria a process called respiration takes place and our carbohydrate is metabolized into ATP or adenosine triphosphate. ATP is a powerful source of plant energy used to power several reactions in the plant including amino acid formation and protein synthesis.

Amino acids are formed by simply linking a nitrogen together with a carbohydrate. The size and development of these amino acids changes when additional groups are connected to the basic structure of a nitrogen and carbohydrate. Just like human bodies, plants depend on amino acids. A great example of how important amino acids are to plants can be seen with the devastating effects of glyphosate or what is more commonly known as Roundup non-selective herbicide. Roundup works by preventing the plant from producing three different amino acids. That’s it! When the plant is inhibited from synthesizing tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine death is certain and the dramatic effects of Roundup can be seen.

As the plant produces amino acids the next step in development is to link them together into long chains called polypeptide chains. A long chain of amino acids is also called a protein. Building proteins is truly the fundamental objective of the plant. Proteins are used for construction, healing, stress/disease resistance, and much more. The majority of dry matter in a plant is made of proteins. When a plant is attacked by a pathogen it produces defense proteins. When a plant is exposed to abrupt increases in air temperature it creates heat stress proteins to safeguard other proteins. When you think of how bodybuilders and athletes use protein to heal muscles after physical exertion it is easy to see why plants work so hard to create them.