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Polyamines in Ecklonia maxima and their effects on plant growth.

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Kelpak®, a seaweed concentrate (SWC) prepared from the brown seaweed Ecklonia maxima (Osbeck) Papenfuss, improves overall plant mass and fruit yield in a variety of crops. The main active principals isolated from Kelpak® are cytokinins and auxins. Although these compounds are partly responsible for the growth promoting effect observed with Kelpak® application, they do not fully account for the complete effect of Kelpak® treatment. For this reason the focus has turned to polyamines (PAs) which are found in all cells of plants, animals and microorganisms, including eukaryotic algae. Polyamines also have growth promoting effects in plants. A study was carried out to investigate the PA levels in E. maxima and Kelpak® through a biennial cycle and to investigate if the PAs present in Kelpak® may have an effect on root growth, alleviating nutrient deficiency and the transport and accumulation of PAs in plants. To determine the amount of PA in the stipes, fronds and SWC prepared from E. maxima, samples were collected monthly over a two-year period (June 2009-June 2011). Extracts were benzoylated and quantified using a Varian HPLC. Putrescine concentrations ranged from 15.98-54.46 μg.g⁻¹, 6.01-40.46 μg.g⁻¹ and 50.66-220.49 μg.g⁻¹ DW in the stipe, fronds and SWC, respectively. Spermine concentrations ranged from 1.02-35.44 μg.g⁻¹, 1.05-26.92 μg.g⁻¹ and 7.28-118.52 μg.g⁻¹ DW in the stipe, fronds and SWC, respectively. Spermidine concentrations fell below the detection threshold. This is the first report of PAs being detected in a SWC. The seasonal pattern established for the stipe, frond and SWC followed the same trend over a biennial cycle. Polyamines accumulated in the seaweed tissue during periods of active growth and as a stress response elicited by rough wave action. This PA trend was similar to the cytokinin trend reported by MOONEY and VAN STADEN (1984b) for Sargassum heterophyllum which suggests that PAs play an important role in the hormone cascade during active growth. Routine monthly screening of Kelpak® carried out in the Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development indicated that Kelpak® consistently resulted in more rooting in the mung bean bioassay than the IBA control. The potential root promoting effect of PAs were investigated. Individually applied PAs did not increase rooting in the mung bean bioassay, but a synergistic relationship was observed between Put (10⁻³ M) and IBA (10⁻⁴ M). When applied together, rooting increased significantly above Put (10⁻³ M) and IBA (10⁻⁴ M) applied separately. The Put-auxin combination produced a similar number of roots to those treated with Kelpak®. It is possible that the PAs present in Kelpak® have a synergistic effect with auxins present in Kelpak® to promote root development and growth. Several physiological effects of Kelpak® and PAs on plant growth were investigated in a series of pot trials. Kelpak® significantly improved the growth of P- and K-deficient okra seedlings and masked the detrimental effects exerted by P- and K-deficiency. The application of PAs (10⁻⁴ M) significantly improved the seedling vigour index (SVI) of okra seedlings subjected to N-deficiency. The statistical difference was attributed to the N-containing growth regulators and polyamines being degraded and metabolized by the okra seedlings. Polyamine application did not alleviate P- and K-deficiency but increased root growth significantly in seedlings receiving an adequate supply of nutrients. It is likely that the additional PAs supported auxin-mediated root growth. A pot trial with okra plants was conducted to establish if the PAs in Kelpak®, applied as a soil drench or foliar application, are absorbed and translocated in a plant. Plants were also treated with Put, Spm, Spd to establish if PAs can be absorbed and translocated. Once the fruit had matured, plants were harvested and the endogenous PA content quantified by HPLC in the roots, stems and fruits. Applying PAs as a soil drench was not as effective as a foliar spray at increasing the PA content in the different plant parts. Kelpak® treatment (0.4%) did not contribute more PAs in any plant part. Spermidine concentrations were higher, in the various plant parts, than Put or Spm, irrespective of the mode of application. The application of Put, Spd and Spm increased Spd concentrations in the roots. Considering that Spd is the main PA produced in the roots and that exogenously applied PAs are readily converted to Spd, it seems evident that Spd is the preferred PA for long-distance transport in plants. The cytokinins and auxins in Kelpak® play an important role in stimulating growth in plants. It is, however, the totality of different compounds in Kelpak® that gives it its unique growth stimulating ability. Polyamines, occurring within the seaweed contribute to this activity, having an active role in root production and thus increased plant growth.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2011.


Polyamines., Brown algae., Growth (Plants), Roots (Botany)--Growth., Deficiency diseases in plants., Crop science., Theses--Botany.