Tuesday, May 20, 2014

10 Strange Natural Cases

Dr Abe V Rotor

Lightning fixes atmospheric Nitrogen into Nitrate, so with other 
elements into their oxide compounds, vital to the plants, fungi 
and many other organisms.

1. Thunder and lightning spawn mushrooms.
In the province, it is a tradition to go hunting for mushrooms in bamboo groves, on anthills, under rice hay and banana stalks during the monsoon season, specifically after a period of heavy thunder and lightning. And what do we know? Old folks are right as they show you the prize - baskets full of Volvariella (rice hay or banana mushroom), Plerotus (abalone mushroom), Auricularia (tainga ng daga), and a host of other wild mushroom species.

Where did the mushrooms come from? When lightning strikes, nitrogen, which comprise 78 percent of the air combines with oxygen (21 percent of the air) forming nitrate (NO3). Scientists call this process, nitrogen fixation or nitrification. Nitrate, which is soluble in water, is washed down by rain. Electrical discharge also aids in the fixation of other elements such as sulfur, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium into soluble compounds.

Lightning occurs every second in any place of the earth, maintaining the earth’s supply of these and other life-giving compounds. Not only green plants benefit from these natural fertilizers, but also phytoplankton (microscopic one-celled plants) - and the lowly mushroom whose vegetative stage is but some cottony mass of mycelia enmeshed in decomposing media such as plant residues. With nitrate and other nutrients now available, coupled with favorable conditions of the environment, the saprophyte transforms into its reproductive phase. This is the mushroom we are familiar with – umbrella-like and fleshy. In all its luxuriance and plenty, it is not unusual to discover clusters or hills of mushrooms in just a single spot.

2. Aligning plants along the sun’s path improves harvest.

Actually this principle of arranging the rows of plants on an east-to-west orientation allows better and longer sunlight exposure which enhance photosynthesis. There is less overshadowing among plants compared to north-to-south, or any direction, especially when intercropping is practiced (e.g. corn with peanut, sugarcane with mungbeans, and coconut and coffee).

3. “Eyes” of Cavendish banana sucker are removed to enhance survival.

Now this is a paradox, for how can a blind creature have a better chance to survive? But this traditional practice is not to be taken literally. Actually the eyes being referred to are the developing buds on the sucker which is the equivalence of tiller. The scientific explanation is that, these young buds grow fast and compete with the transplanted sucker, drawing out the nutrients it needs. Thus “blinding” is actually aborting the buds, which appear like eyes on closer look. (Note: This practice is done only to Cavendish (bongolan or tumok variety, and not to other banana varieties.)

4. Farm animals grow faster with music, so with certain plants.
In a holding pen in Lipa, Batangas, where newly arrived heifers from Australia were kept, the head rancher related to us, his guests, the role of music in calming the animals. “We have to acclimatize them first before dispersing them to the pasture and feedlot.” He pointed at the sound system playing melodious music. In the duration of touring the place I was able to pick up the music of Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Bach. It is like being in a high rise office in Makati where pipe-in music is played to add to pleasant ambiance of working. Scientists believe that the effect of music on humans has some similarity to animals, and most probably to plants.

Which brings us to the observation of a winemaker in Vienna. A certain Carlo Cagnozzi has been piping Mozart music to his grapevines for the last five years. He claims that playing round the clock to his grapes has a dramatic effect. “It ripens them faster,” he said, adding that it also keeps away parasites and birds. Scientists are now studying this claim to enlarge the very limited knowledge on the physiological and psychological effects of music.

Once I asked a poultry raiser in Teresa, Rizal, who also believes in music therapy. “The birds grow faster and more eggs are produced,” he said. “In fact music has stopped cannibalism.” I got the same positive response from cattle raisers where the animals are tied to their quarters until they are ready for market. “They just doze off, even when they are munching,” he said, adding that tension and unnecessary movement drain the animals, wasting feeds that would otherwise improve daily weight gain. In a report from one of the educational TV programs, loud metallic noise stimulates termites to eat faster, and therefore create more havoc.

There is one warning posed by the proponents of music therapy. Rough and blaring music agitates the adrenalin in the same way rock music could bring down the house.

5. Corn yield increases by decapitating the standing crop. (detasseling)
Detasseling or removal of the male flower of the standing corn plant reduces the chances of corn borers (Pyrausta nobilales and Heliothes armigera) infestation by almost one-half. Detasseling is done when one-half to three-fourths of the tassel has emerged. Pulling out the tassel or cutting it at the base of the peduncle does it. This technique has been found effective when performed to 75 percent of the plants or in three to every four corn rows. This means that only one-fourth of the corn population is needed to complete pollination, thus detasseling at this level does not significantly affect pollination, on the other hand, it increases yield.

Farmers know plant physiology, a major subject in botany and agriculture.

6. Jackfruit or nangka may bear fruits under the ground.
Olfactory sense leads one to a nangka tree (Artocarpus integra) in search of the characteristic aroma, and finding none on its trunk and branches, he thinks the spirits must be playing tricks on him. But wait. What is beneath the bulging earth at the base of the tree?

What a discovery – an underground fruit! It is sweeter than the normal fruit. This is a rare example of a metamorphosed root – a root capable of producing flowers and subsequent fruits, which is indeed a rare botanical phenomenon.

7. Leaves of madre de cacao or kakawate hasten the ripening of fruits.
Old folks use fresh leaves of Gliricida sepium to ripen banana, papaya, mango, chico, guyabano, atis, avocado, and others. The fruits are placed in an earthen jar lined with kakawate leaves. The jar is closed or inverted in order to trap the ethylene gas that catalyses the softening of pectin and the conversion of complex to simple sugar that results in ripening which takes around three days. Unlike the commercial method of using carbide (carburo), kakawate ripened fruits, as long as they were picked at proper maturity, develop natural taste, color and aroma as if they were ripened on the tree.

8. Mungo seeds that remain hard even after cooking are attributed to bad spirits.
You may have already experienced this situation. While enjoying your favorite dish of “mungo with pork and ampalaya leaves,” all of a sudden you find yourself grimacing with pain after biting a stone-hard mungo seed!

Blame it to no one, but the lazy canny farmer who, instead of harvesting only the mature mungo pods, uprooted the whole plant. The hardened seeds come from immature pods mixed with the mature seeds. The starch in the immature pod has been locked up and hardened during drying, making it difficult to soften even under prolonged cooking.

As a matter of information, mungo or mungbean (Phaseolus radiatus) is the counterpart of soybean in the tropics for its high nutritive value and many uses. It can be made into flour, sotanghon (noodles), lumpia, togue (sprouts), hopia, curds, and many more products.

9. Catch a monkey with young coconut (buko).
Bore a small hole into a young coconut (buko), about an inch in diameter, or just enough for the monkey to insert its hands with outstretched fingers into the nut. Hang the nut among the trees where monkeys abound. A monkey comes around, inserts its hand into the hole. Once its hand reaches the inside of the nut, it scoops the flesh into a tight fist. By so doing its hand gets stuck inside the nut. The monkey will not release his hold so as to be able escape. Now it is the trapper’s move. It is also one for the fable.

10. It’s the male seahorse that gets pregnant.
Many have not actually seen a seahorse. Well, a seahorse or Hippocampus (sea-monster horse) is a fish sheathed in tough parchment-like cuirass of bony plate. During courtship the bride transfers the eggs she has created into her husband’s brood pouch, up to 250 to 300 brick-red eggs, each one fertilized at the instant of transfer. With her marital duties over, she swims away free from care.

Alone the father seahorse nourishes the nestling for approximately 45 days in his steadily swelling incubator chamber making him appear pregnant. At the end of the period it ejects a ball containing the tiny colts which dart out from it in all directions.

It may be for this reason that the Chinese believe in the aphrodisiac power of the seahorse. In ancient times seahorse steeped in wine was regarded as a violent poison, but the ashes of a seahorse taken with honeyed vinegar, according to Pliny, was used to cure baldness, hot flashes, skin eruptions, and regarded as powerful antidote of poisons and bite of mad dog. ~

INVITATION: If you have Strange But True Cases in Nature, kindly share them with us through the Comments of this Post. Thank you. AVR. ~

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