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vinegar helps plants fight drought vinegar helps plants fight drought
Photo: Andreana Bitsis

New Studies Show How Vinegar Helps Plants Fight Drought

Turns out apple cider vinegar isn’t just good for human hydration, it’s also good for plants, as well.

Just in time for summer heat waves, the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science announced in Nature Plants that applying acetate (the main compound in vinegar) can help increase some plants’ chance at survival through a drought.

Photo: Andreana Bitsis

Researchers discovered the process while investigating a mutation in Arabidopsis (otherwise known as the mustard family containing cabbage and radish) that allows the plants to better survive drought.

Specifically, the scientists found that a gene could be activated which would shift the plant’s metabolic pathway, causing them to produce more acetate. In a follow-up experiment, scientists confirmed that treating plants with acetic acid promised a better chance at surviving drought (their results stated that under drought conditions, 70% of the plants treated with acetic acid had survived, while virtually all those given water had died). In conclusion, the team stated that they were able to “induce greater tolerance for drought-like conditions simply by growing plants in vinegar.”

The team stated that they were able to “induce greater tolerance for drought-like conditions simply by growing plants in vinegar.”

Perhaps the most compelling part of the research was the revelation that this process could be activated epigenetically (meaning the modification of gene expression rather than the genes themselves) and that the gene in question is present in major food crops like corn, rice, and wheat. With Climate Change setting record high temperatures, the risk of drought (even in previously untouched areas) in an increasing concern, especially in states like California, where agriculture is an essential part of the economy. The knowledge that something as cheap as vinegar could present a viable solution is exciting.

So what does this mean for your own garden? The team at RIKEN has yet to release their exact measurements and proportions, but stay tuned, as they’ll be continuing their experiments around this low-cost solution and figuring how much works for different plants. While it’s tempting to run out in your garden right away, vinegar has traditionally been used to kill plants in the garden– so beware of any desire to take the experiment into your own hands.

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Want to learn more about drought resistant plants? Check out our favorite spot to pick up rare drought resistant plants or our advice from the experts on crafting a drought resistant garden.

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