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Magnetic Field Effects on Plant Growth, Development, and Evolution


Magnetic Field Effects on Plant Growth, Development, and Evolution

Massimo E Maffei. Front Plant Sci.


The geomagnetic field (GMF) is a natural component of our environment. Plants, which are known to sense different wavelengths of light, respond to gravity, react to touch and electrical signaling, cannot escape the effect of GMF. While phototropism, gravitropism, and tigmotropism have been thoroughly studied, the impact of GMF on plant growth and development is not well-understood. This review describes the effects of altering magnetic field (MF) conditions on plants by considering plant responses to MF values either lower or higher than those of the GMF. The possible role of GMF on plant evolution and the nature of the magnetoreceptor is also discussed.

Keywords: cryptochrome; evolution; geomagnetic field; magnetoreception; plant responses.


Figure 1
Figure 1
The evolutionary history of plants. The abundance and diversity of plant fossils increase in the Silurian Period where the first macroscopic evidence for land plants has been found. There is evidence for the evolution of several plant groups of the late Devonian and early Carboniferous periods (homosporous ferns and gymnosperms). From the late Devonian through the base of the late Cretaceous period, gymnosperms underwent dramatic evolutionary radiations and became the dominant group of vascular plants in most habitats. Flowering plants probably also originated during this time, but they did not become a significant part of the fossil flora until the middle of the Cretaceous Period (Modified from Occhipinti et al., 2014).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Geomagnetic field reversals and Angiosperm evolution. In the direct comparison of GMF polarity and diversion of Angiosperms it is interesting to note that most of the diversion occurred during periods of normal magnetic polarity (Modified from Occhipinti et al., 2014).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Cryptochrome activation and inactivation reactions. Blue light activates cryptochrome through absorbing a photon by the flavin cofactor. FAD becomes promoted to an excited FAD* state and receives an electron from a nearby tryptophan, leading to the formation of the [FADH• + Trp•] radical pair, which exists in singlet (1) and triplet (3) overall electron spin states by coherent geomagnetic field-dependent interconversions. Under aerobic conditions, FADH• slowly reverts back to the initial inactive FAD state through the also inactive FADH state of the flavin cofactor (Modified from Occhipinti et al., 2014).

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