Photosynthesis: How Does It Work?

You wake up, excited about your day ahead. Maybe you’re meeting up with friends for lunch, or you’ve got a big presentation at work. Whatever it may be, as you settle down into bed, you realise that this is probably the most important day of the week. It’s photosynthesis day!

What exactly is photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants take in light energy and use it to create chemical energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the currency that all living things in the universe use to power their bodies.

The process begins in the darkness with a reaction that’s catalyzed by chlorophyll (a green compound that absorbs electromagnetic radiation, including light energy), which splits water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). The byproduct of this reaction is a little bit of sugar (also known as glucose)

The green pigment in plants, chlorophyll, is critical to photosynthesis. Without it, all the ATP that a plant makes is just useless energy.

More specifically, it’s the conversion of sunlight into the energy needed to drive all the cellular processes taking place inside the plant. When we talk about photosynthesis, usually we’re referring to the process that takes place in the leaves.

However, plants don’t always use their leaves to photosynthesise. Some species, like desert plants, have adapted over time so that they can photosynthesise even when the majority of their body is in the shade. This is because the process is light-dependent. That is, it only works under certain conditions.

How Do Plants Use Light Energy?

You need to have plenty of light to photosynthesise, but you also need to protect your plants from overheating. Too much light and heat become toxic to the plant and can even be lethal. This is why desert plants have adapted so that they can photosynthesise even when their environment is harsh. The light-dependent reaction that takes place in photosynthesis is extremely slow and inefficient without proper illumination. This is why it’s better to leave a light on when you leave the room.

Without any light to stimulate it, a plant’s natural state is to stay in a state of relaxation, where it conserves energy while waiting for the next burst of sunlight. The process of photosynthesis is a lot less complicated than you think. The plant simply has to capture light and water to keep itself alive.

The Importance Of Photosynthesis

If plants don’t photosynthesise, we’d have to rely on other forms of energy to power our world. This is why it’s so critical that they are able to do so. Some animals, like the jellyfish, are able to harness the energy released in photosynthesis. However, this is a very inefficient process and is not something that’s needed for everyday life. Plants provide us with food, fuel, and more.

For example, the wheat plant has a lifespan of up to 10 years, and it only takes about 70 days for it to reach maturity. During this time, the plant’s energy sources are depleted and it begins to die. If we stop feeding it and allow it to decompose in a controlled environment, it can produce large quantities of compost which can fuel our planet for a very long time.

What’s Next?

So, you’ve got your plant in the pot, and you’ve started feeding it every day. Now, you’ve got to make sure that it stays alive and healthy. The first step is to water it regularly. Letting the soil dry out will cause your plant to wilt. You also need to make sure that the water that you give it is fresh. If you want your plant to grow abundantly, you’ll need to change the water often. Some plants like the Japanese knotweed, can survive in relatively dry soil, but for the most part, a plant needs at least an inch of water per week. You don’t need to water it for long periods during the day, but make sure that you do so at regular intervals throughout the day.

You might also want to move your plant to a spot that gets lots of sunlight. During the day, the light will trigger the creation of more ATP, which your plant can readily access. Another important step is to check in on your plant often. Some signs that it’s going to be difficult for your plant to survive are:

  • Dry soil
  • Thin leaves
  • Chipped or broken leaves
  • Leaves that are falling off
  • Nepotella, a black fungus that appears on the surface of leaves
  • Fruit dropping off
  • Flower buds that haven’t opened yet

If you see any of these signs, it might be a good idea to bring your plant inside and see if it recovers or at least remains healthy. As for the rest, you can leave it to continue its natural course and, as long as it has plenty of light and fresh water, it will make it quite far before it starts to decline in health.

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