BYU-Idaho may not be a typical “research university”, but that doesn’t mean that students don’t ever have the opportunity to be part of research. All you have to do is ask your professors what you can be involved in. For example, this semester Landon Knowles has been working with Bro. Dewey on two different projects. One of them is testing the efficiency of over-the-counter weed killer on Kentucky blue grass, and the other is looking at drought stress responses in plants.
Everybody loves the lush beauty and soft blades of Kentucky blue for their lawn. However, as it is a rhizomatous grower, it has a tendency to creep into areas of your landscape where you don’t want it— like flower beds. How easy would it be if the homeowner could keep their flower beds free of weeds and unwanted Kentucky blue just by a simple spray of weed killer? As of right now, your typical spray bottle of weed killer is not labeled for use on Kentucky blue. Landon has been spraying patches of Kentucky blue grass with weed killer in different concentrations and viewing the results. So far, a spray with a 3x concentration is working very well. After more data collection and a review of results, Knowles is wanting to write a thorough discussion of the results and get it published.
The second project that Knowles is involved in is looking at drought stress responses. He’s using Kentucky blue grass, but you could do this with any plant theoretically. Plants can communicate with neighboring plants and we can verify this. Right now Landon and Adam have patches of grass set up in the greenhouse. One patch— the control, is in a corner by itself, and the other experimental patches are grouped together about 15 yards away from the control. They are purposely water stressing one patch of grass. Each week they take clippings from the water stressed patch, it’s neighboring patch that is watered regularly, and the control patch. The clippings are soaked in water for 12 hours so the cells can fill and be at full turgor pressure before they are weighed. One sign of a plant that is drought stressed is thicker, heavier, cell walls. When the three different groups of clippings are weighed, the drought stressed group should be heavier as the cell walls are thicker in order to prevent water loss within the plant. In this experiment, the drought stressed plant as well as its neighbor weigh more than the control plant. The stressed plant is “talking” with its neighbor saying, “I’m having problems over here, you may want to thicken your cell walls because whatever is happening here will most likely become a problem for you as well.”
Working with a professor with research projects is an excellent way to apply your classroom studies to work skills. These are great opportunities to make the most of your time here in Rexburg and we encourage you to seek these opportunities. All you have to do is talk to your professors! They may not be working on something at the moment, but they would know someone who is.
Our aim for the Department of Horticulture at Brigham Young University-Idaho is to nurture understanding of both the art and science of Horticulture. Students learn experimentally in the classroom, laboratory, greenhouse, and ten acre Thomas E. Ricks demonstration garden as they pursue an Associates or Bachelors Degree. Using the medium of plants, students develop habits of hard work, enlightened minds, and healthy living that assist in gainful employment opportunitues.