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ALL VOLUMES CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Some Newly Discovered Plant Principles.
In Agriculture we work with plants. We place them in the
ground and see them develop from the seed to maturity. We cultivate
them and feed them fertilizers. The product may be good or it may
be bad. The plant j either worked well or it has not; but we can
not tell exactly why it has or has not worked well. The reason lies
in the fact that we know very little about the plant actually works.
In the living plant we deal wi th a mechanism which we c an
not examine in its most vital parts; because, the morzent we in any way
interfere with the living Protoplasm, we kill it; and the dead propoA-
lasm is a wholly different substance fror' the living Protoplasm.
Altho we cannot analyze the living Rxagm6rotoplasm, we
can study the products of its~ action, -,nd its action upon the non-
living matter whict'is presented it Ps food. In the process of fermen-
tation we have an example of both the product of its action, and its
action upon non-living matter. Fermentations are familiar to every
one. The cane syrup ferments if not properly taken care of; the
yeast ferments, making possible the l1rge plump loaves of bread; the
milk ferments, which is another way of saying that it sours.
In all these cases the fermentation is brought about by
the action of living protoplasm. Contaminations such as yeasts, bac-
teria and moulds, which are all living plants, have fallen from the
air into the syrup. There they have grown and multiplied, for they
have found a favorable place tp live, The syrup furnishes them a
super- abundance or food. Their living protoplasm breaks down the syrup
into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is a gas commonly known as
carbonic acid gas. The gas collects and rises in the syrup giving it
its frothy appearance; and the alcohol present gives it its character-
In the milk, myriads of small bacteria have found a favor-
able place in w.ich to live. They are growing and multiplying, break-
ing down the milk sugar into Lactic acid which gives the milk its
In each of these cases we suppose that the protoplasm was
in direct contact with the syrup and with the milk, and provoked the
decomposition of each.
In the case of the yeast, which is a small one called plant,
we have a decomposition of sugar into the alcohol and carbon dioxide.
But the decomposition is not brought about by the direct contact of
the protoplasm with the sugar. Instead the protoplasm has secreted
a substance which we will callka plant Principle, and which is known
in scientific literature as an enzyme, that stimulates the sugar to
break down th6o alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Altho we have known for several centuries that the yeast
plant can provoke the braking down of sugar, it has only recently
been discovered that the yea_ t does so by its protoplasm secreting a
plant principle or enymne that does the work. This substance has
been named Zymase.
These plant principles are very abundant in the vegetable
kingdom. Thebacteria in the soil secrete them, thus locking u.p the
nitrogen from the air into ammonia and related compounds. One mould
fungus is known to secrete ten different ones. They may be equally
abundant in some of the higher plants. Seeds germinate by their con-
verting the stored food into a form usable by the young plant until
it can become established in the :oil. The fertilizers taken f om the
soil are modified greatly by the enzymes in the plant before they are
in a condition to be used by the protoplasm. The enzymes change the
plant food into an insoluble form that it may be stored; and later
changes it back into the soluble form that it may be carried to all
parts of the plant for use. They are very active during the growth
and ripening of the fruit.
They aid in the carrying on of all the life processes, such
as digestion, respiration and growth. During respiration, the union
of the oxygen with the tissue is accomplished by their help. Digestion
is almost wholly an enzyme action.
On the other hand, instead of being friends, they maybe an
aid to the enemy of the plant; or they may even be the enemy itself.
The fungus bores its way into the plant by means of the enzymes it
secretes. The Mosiace Dise of the Tobacco is thought to be due to an
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