[Plant-education] plant biology-plant "feeding" question

David W. Kramer via plant-ed%40net.bio.net (by kramer.8 At osu.edu)
Mon Nov 20 15:57:28 EST 2006

I am not a plant physiologist, but...

Much of the issue is resolved with a careful definition of food.  For 
plants, a food molecule is one which is used by the plant to store 
energy (photosynthesis) and later can be broken down (cellular 
respiration) to release that energy.  Minerals which are quite 
necessary for hundreds of chemical reactions in the plant are 
absorbed (mostly from the soil) and are called mineral nutrients. 
The problem comes when the students go to the local garden store and 
see hundreds of products labeled "Plant Food" when they really should 
be called "Fertilizer" or "Mineral Nutrients."  I make these 
distinctions when teaching Intro to Plant Biology here at Ohio State 
and the students seem to "get" it.

Dave Kramer

>Hi All,
>We've got two plant biologists on staff, and there is some dissent
>between them regarding a question that has been posed, so I'm looking to
>you for a "vote." Specifically, our work involves expanding upon or
>clarifying the middle school benchmarks from AAAS' Project 2061's
>Benchmarks for Science Literacy for the purposes of instruction and
>assessment. That's the background, so you have an idea of why I'm asking
>this question.
>The point with which we're dealing involves the idea that plants make
>their own food (in contrast to animals) and that in most cases this is
>their only source of food. Food is defined as something that is a source
>of building materials for growth and maintenance and of energy. We have
>one staff member who insists that some plants take in sugars through
>their roots and wants to include it in the work, and one staff member
>who thinks that while this is possible (I think that they're thinking
>mycoheterotrophs), it is not a significant source of food for plants and
>will only serve to reinforce the widely held misconception that plants
>take in food through their roots. I'd love some input from you so that
>we can move forward with this. Any thoughts?
>Thanks for your help.
>Kristen Lennon
>Kristen A. Lennon, Ph.D.
>Research Associate
>Project 2061
>American Association for the Advancement of Science
>1200 New York Ave., NW
>Washington, DC 20005 USA
>E-mail: klennon At aaas.org
>Plant-ed mailing list
>Plant-ed At net.bio.net

David W. Kramer, Ph.D.
Asst. Prof. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
Phone:  (419) 755-4344      FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 At osu.edu

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