Applications of sieve plates in agriculture

In the year 1837, Theodor Hartig first identified the presence of sieve elements. Since the discovery of sieve elements, a lot of research has been done on the phloem tissues and the passage of material through them. However, in the year 1858 post the sieve elements discovery, phloem was discovered by Carl Nageli. Since the discovery of both, there is a lot of understanding about transport in plants. The first pattern of movement inside the phloem was studied in the leaves of Arabidopsis. The studies revealed the presence of companion cells and sieve cells when the fluorescent markers highlighted the parts. The complete network of phloem tissues was studied through this study.

There are two variants of sieve elements. They are sieve-tube members and sieve cells. The primary function of sieve-tube members is transporting the necessary compounds with the aid of companion cells. These sieve-tube members are live cells without the nucleus. Carbohydrates are the main elements that are transported by these sieve plates. The sieve tubes combine with the companion cells to form the sieve tube companion complex. This complex helps in the supply of nutrients and to maintain the plant cells and their signaling mechanism intra- and extracellularly. The members of the sieve tube do not usually contain a nucleus or ribosomes. Hence, they require companion cells to perform the transporting activity. The proteins necessary for the sieve tube members are provided by the companion cells so that they can signal and generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which acts as the energy needed to transport the sugar molecules to different regions of the plant. The sugar molecules are transported from the outer portion of the cells to the interior of the sieve tubes. The companion cells allow the flow of contents to be bidirectional.

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Another variant of the sieve cells is the sieve cells. The sieve cells are long in structure and they do not fall under the category of sieve tubes. The only difference between sieve tubes and the sieve cells in the presence of sieve plates in the sieve cells. They are long but narrow in length than the sieve tube members. This is because they are associated with the albuminous cells. Sieve cells are coupled with albuminous cells to help in transporting the organic compounds. These albuminous cells are long and end with the overlap of other sieve cell elements. They possess nutrients and act as a food reserve to nourish the surrounding tissues. These cells also help the sieve cells to be linked with the parenchyma tissues thereby stabilizing the transport of nutrients across the plant.

The role of sieve elements in the transport of plants is very essential in the growth and development of the entire plant. This is because they carry macromolecules and carbohydrates. This property of the sieve elements is put into application in agriculture to identify the nutrient distribution across the plant. The sieve elements are connected to companion cells with the help of plasmodesmata and the sieve tubes are linked to various parts of the plant through parenchyma. The entire system containing these elements cooperates to create the movement of materials. The agricultural yield of the product can be increased by increasing the flow of material through these systems. This is by increasing the diffusion through the phloem. It is also known that besides the transport of carbohydrates, certain sieve tubes of angiosperms are known to transport ribonucleic acid (RNA) to help the transcriptional activity in the plant. This happens by delivering the RNA to the sink tissues. Sunk tissues refer to those tissues that are in the growth process. They need nutrients too. The sieve elements act together with the sieve tubes to deliver extra nutrients to the sink tissues thereby speeding up the growth. Over time, this method can provide a higher agricultural yield.

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