Guy Kyser on Plant Transpiration, Phytoremediation

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

When plants get irrigated, not only do they provide food, but all plants transpire. Guy Kyser, a specialist at the UC Davis Plant Sciences Department, explained how plant transpiration transforms carbon dioxide into “food” for plants to grow.

“Water in the shallow soil is either going to evaporate, or it’s going to be transpired,” Kyser said, “which means it’s going to pass through a plant from the soil to the atmosphere. The transpiration process helps the plant fix CO2 and convert it into food or plant material. The plant is really a little solar powered machine that catches CO2 out of the atmosphere and turns it into something solid so it’s not a greenhouse gas anymore.”

Kyser also explained the phytoremediation* process that occurs in plants grown in less-than-ideal soil and water conditions, in which these plants take up polluted water from its roots while removing impurities from the soil, retain the impurities, and release pure water into the atmosphere. Kyser said, “So, with phytoremediation, you can use the plants to purify poor soil or water situations, then mow off the plant material when the process is done. All the toxins stay in the plant, and only the pure water goes through.” Despite being a slow process, phytoremediation is effective in toxin removal, environmentally friendly, and does not harm soil health.

*Phytoremediation: Ancient Greek for “plant” and Latin for “restoring balance”