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What Is a Growth Regulator?

Plants' growth regulators are suppressed during times of drought.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2014
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A growth regulator is a hormone or a substance which behaves like a hormone in plants. Plants generate their own growth regulators to moderate various processes related to growth, ranging from dropping leaves in the winter to putting out new growth in the spring. Gardeners can also apply growth regulators to their crops to control their growth and push for specific desired outcomes.

At the most basic, a growth regulator can tell a plant when to start or stop growing. Regulators are also involved in processes like leafing out, dropping leaves, setting fruit, and so forth. They are produced in low levels in plants in response to natural cues, and in some cases, plants can also produce growth regulators which impact other plants. Fungi can also develop growth regulators which will have an impact on plant life.

Growth regulator production can respond to pressure from the environment, with plants adapting their growth regulator output so that they do not overreach their means. In drought conditions, for example, a tree's growth will be suppressed because not enough water is available. On the other hand, a year of good rain can trigger rapid growth as the tree works to take advantage of changing weather conditions. When people trick plants with applications of water, fertilizers, or growth regulators, sometimes they become unhealthy unless they are closely monitored.

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In gardening, artificial growth regulators are applied to crops to accomplish a variety of goals, such as encouraging cuttings to produce roots, forcing trees to fruit, reducing the production of suckers, and so forth. On ornamentals, they can do things like prolonging the flowering period so that people can enjoy flowers, and they can also stimulate growth of vines, new shoots, and so forth. Such chemicals are readily available at some nursery and garden supply stores, including natural products derived from plants along with true synthetics made in the lab.

Farming on a large scale may use growth regulators to control crop development for the purpose of making tasks such as harvesting easier by creating uniform crop development. If crops matured at irregular rates, as they might do under normal conditions, it could complicate the process of managing the farm. By triggering plants to do things like flowering simultaneously across the field, growth regulators streamline the process of farming, and ensure that farmers know exactly when plants will be ready for harvest. A growth regulator can also be valuable when making clones, grafting, and performing similar tasks.

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