David R. Hershey dh321 at
Sat Nov 14 16:39:35 EST 1998

When someone says botany has no life skills and gives an example of pH
as a "life skill", a botanist should reply that some of the most
important uses of pH measurement and control are with plants. Liming
soils to increase pH is a standard agricultural practice that returns
billions per year in greater crop yields. Acidifying soils with iron
sulfate, sphagnum peat moss, or sulfur is a standard practice to grow
acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries. Other
important examples of pH control in plant culture are in plant tissue
culture, hydroponics and cut flower preservatives, which acidify the
vase solution. Acid rain has apparently had devastating effects on
certain forests. Some plant roots acidify their immediate environment,
which tremendously increases the availability of certain essential
mineral nutrients.

Botanists and botany courses generally do not focus much on the
scientific knowledge of plant culture (gardening, horticulture,
agronomy, forestry). While a knowledge of obscure plant terminology has
little use in most people's lives, a scientific knowledge of how to
propagate and grow plants efficiently is valuable to nearly everyone.
Too bad it is usually absent from botany textbooks and curricula.

David R. Hershey, dh321 at

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