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Study shows that watermelons grow faster at night

Wearable sensing technology is an essential link to future personalized medicine through seamlessly monitoring heart rate, body temperature, and physical activities of the human body. Recently, a wearable electronic sensor for plants has been jointly developed by LIU Xiangjiang and YING Yibin from the College of Biosystems Engineering and Food Science, WANG Xiaozhi from the College of Information Science and Electronic Engineering, and HU Zhongyuan from the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology.

Researchers pioneered in continuously monitoring the stem flow inside a plant through this wearable electronic sensing device which can harmlessly cohabitate with the plant. Meanwhile, they found that fruit growth and photosynthesis are not synchronized, which not only alters people’s long-standing perception of the plant’s growth and development process but also opens the door to new technologies in high-yield crop breeding and cultivation. 

Researchers installed sensors at several key sites on the stem of watermelon and observed the continuous and dynamic distribution of water in different organs, such as leaves, fruits, and stalks, without any damage. By analyzing stem flow data, they discovered for the first time the asynchrony between fruit growth and photosynthesis.

“The surge in nighttime stem flow is largely attributed to the difference in osmotic potential due to the photosynthetic products accumulated at daytime. Meanwhile, the absence of transpiration prompts a large quantity of the stem flow to the fruit, thereby triggering the increase of the fruit in weight and volume,” HU Zhongyong remarked. 

These findings imply that the accumulation of fruit fresh weight mainly happens during the night, which is contradicted with the common view that the fruit growth rate should be synchronized with the photosynthesis activities, in other words, higher during the daytime.

Not only is this counter-intuitive discovery of considerable scientific value, but it also holds immense application prospects. “Water is a precious agricultural resource. Analysis of water transport and drought-resistance mechanisms in such drought-resistant crops as watermelon based on stem flow will provide new theoretical and technical support for agricultural production, irrigation, and crop breeding in arid regions around the world,” said ZJU researchers.

Read the complete research at

For more information:
Zhejiang University 

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