Methanol and improved yields

Thomas Bjorkman Thomas_Bjorkman at cornell.edu
Mon Nov 2 11:21:26 EST 1992


In article <1992Oct31.225947.1631 at gserv1.dl.ac.uk> Tony Travis,
ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk writes:
>Anyone who works in a lab and is aware of the toxic effects of methanol
>would find it difficult to believe that you are recommending spraying
>it on a crop intended for direct human consumption.  Let alone the
>health of people breathing the methanol spray.

I am the source of at least part of this posting, so I would respond to
your concerns by saying that the recommendations are from Nonpomura and
Benson, not me.  I would make absolutely no recommendation regarding
whether this is appropriate for any particular individual.  There was a
discussion about it on alt.coevolution, but none of the discussants had
read the article.  I gave an opinionated translation of the original work
so that people had an opportunity to discuss that which was actually in
the article rather than what they imagined miight be in it.

I should add that I AM a lab rat, and that in my short carreer as a
horticultusrist, I have not yet gotten into spraying.  However, I have
learned some interesting things about sprays.  One is that the carriers
in most of the formulations sprayed directly on leaves make 10% methanol
look positively benign.  (These are the inert ingredients.)  As it
happens, Nomura and Benson spend much of their paper figuring out what
the toxic concentration of methanol is for a wide variety of plants. 
They then did trials with lower concentrations.
  
This paper has gotten a considerable amount of press, and with the 40%
yield increases they describe, I am sure that it will stay in the news
for a while.  My opinion is that they describe some provocative results
with speculation on a mechanism.  Has Andy Benson started selling snake
oil?  I surely do not know, but this is a long way from being
incorporated into common agricultural practice.  While the plant
physiology is provocative, the practical agriculture is pedestrian.



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