Rice in a Different Light

Rice feeds more than half of the world’s human population. As a consequence of climate change, it is becoming more difficult to grow rice in wet conditions in big rice farming areas. With dry rice farming, weeds are becoming a major problem which results in the high use of herbicides. In urgent need for sustainable weed-control biologist Dr. Martina Huber investigated how the rice plant itself can suppress the weeds.

In this context, far-red light plays a special role. Far-red light is known to be a signal for plants for dense vegetation, to which they react with strong elongation and reduced formation of leaves. Rice plants with bigger and bushier growth were selected, to grow over- the weed and shade them.

Photographers Jasper Zijlstra and Jeroen Verschoor collaborated with Huber to visualize her research, in an attempt to bridge the gap between science and the general public.

Shading of rice variaties

Even a grassy plant like rice, with its thin and long leaves, extends and covers a big area. This is the surface that catches the sunlight and shades plants trying to grow underneath.

Overview of 42 plants receiving Far Red treatment
Far-red light is invisible to the human eye, not so for plants. Exactly this light is perceived by plants, giving it important information about its surrounding and neighbouring plants. This signal makes plant react and change its growth on the outside and processes in the inside.

1-4 weeks growth of rice variaties
Starting from a minuscules seed, the first leaf emerges, receives light which gives the plant energy to form another leaf and it continuously follows collecting energy from the sunlight and forming more leaves, following a precise pattern and rhythm dictated by an invisible code.