Vernalization

figure 31-11

The colors of the carotenoids are visible in these autumn leaves, which have lost most of their chlorophyll.

figure 31-11

The colors of the carotenoids are visible in these autumn leaves, which have lost most of their chlorophyll.

Vernalization is a low-temperature stimulation of flowering. Vernalization is important for fall-sown grain crops, such as winter wheat, barley, and rye. Farmers often take advantage of vernalization to grow and harvest their crops before a summer drought sets in. For example, wheat seeds are sown in the fall and survive the winter as small seedlings. Exposure to cold winter temperatures causes the plants to flower in early spring, and an early crop is produced. If the same wheat is sown in the spring, it will take about two months longer to produce a crop. Thus, cold temperatures are not absolutely required for many grain crops, but they do quicken flowering.

A biennial plant is a plant that usually lives for only two years, producing flowers and seeds during the second year. Biennial plants, such as carrots, beets, celery, and foxglove, survive their first winter as large roots with small plants above ground. In the spring, their flowering stem elongates rapidly, a process called bolting. Most biennials must undergo vernalization before they flower during the second year. They then die after flowering. Treating a biennial with gibberellin is sometimes used as a substitute for cold temperatures.

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