What Is The Plant Cuticle?

Cuticle Integrity Is Fundamental for a Healthy Plant and Quality Crop


It All Goes Back To The Cuticle

It’s hard to believe the marketability of an entire crop may be determined by a material measuring under 10 microns. Yet that is the challenge in the agriculture industry.

It begins with a thorough understanding of the microscopic layer encompassing the fruit: the cuticle.

The cuticle of a plant acts as its armor for protection from environmental forces and stress. A healthy cuticle has the ability to defend against excessive water uptake or drought, and sunburn from harmful UV radiation. The cuticle also decreases a fruit plant’s susceptibility for attack from fungi, pathogens and pests.

Plant Cuticle

Made up of two separate layers, the cuticle encompasses the cellular wall of the fruit, as well as the leaves, stems, and trunk of the plant. The first layer is comprised of cutin – a variety of waxy polymers – embedded with polysaccharides. Made of fatty acids, polysaccharides encompass the hydrophilic cell wall providing rigidity to the plant and flexibility to withstand growth. This layer is essential for gaseous exchange, nutrient transport and transpiration. The second cuticle layer is made of hydrophobic cuticular waxes instrumental in the plant’s permeability to water.

The cuticle layers are produced by the epidermis of the fruit during early growth stages. They have the ability to stretch across the fruit as it rapidly expands. Imperfections in the cuticle happen when rapid growth of the fruit overcomes the cuticle’s elastic properties. This occurs most often during exposure to excess moisture during heavy rainfall or over-irrigation.

The cuticle also protects fruit against sunburn as a result of exposure to UV radiation and excess heat absorption. While the cell wall houses a variety of pigments to screen and absorb UV-B radiation, the cutin layer possess pigments providing additional screening while the waxy layer can reflect UV waves.

Occurrences of extreme weather conditions causing environmental stress make the protection of the plant cuticle vital to fruit production in varying climates worldwide.