Vinegar: an inexpensive simple way to combat drought in the garden

Vinegar enhances Drought Tolerance in Plants

The Science Behind the Claim

Vinegar drought garden

As per a recent study [1] vinegar can actually enhance drought tolerance in plants. Researchers at the Japanese RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science published a study that reports a biological pathway in some plants that is activated durring drought by using vinegar. By exploring this 'pathway', researchers were able to induce higher drought tolerance by watering plants with dilluted vinegar.

The factor that lit the lightbulb above researchers heads was the discovery of unique 'Arabidopsis' mutant plants that had very high drought tolerances for no known reason. Arabidopsis are a genus of Brassica plants related to cabbage, broccoli, mustard and crucifers.

These plants it was discovered have a mutated enzyme that allows plants to continue normal growth under severe drought stress for extended periods of time.

The primary researchers involved in the project, Jong Myong Kim and Motoaki Seki discovered that external application of vinegar can enhance drought tolerance in these plants. Taking their research a step further they also found that this 'pathway' is genetically regulated in other common crops, primarily grains such as corn, rice, and wheat.

This pathway is via an enzyme labeled HDA6, the main component of vinegar. In the mutated plants, larger amounts of acetate were produced. Normally plants break down sugar for energy, but in time of drought, they switch to the acetate. This HDA6 enzyme acts as a control for which type of metabolic pathway is used, normal sugars or acetate.

Plants that produced higher acetate levels fared much better uder drought stress than those that did not produce ample levels to counter act the lack of water.


Increasing the amount of acetate in plants could help them survive drought they hypothesized. They grew normal plants in drought conditions and treated them with organic acids, and water. The end result was that after 2 weeks of water deprivation more than 70% of the plants treated with acetic acid survived, less than 10% of the other plants lived. A solution of 40 parts water to one part acetate was used.

Drought tolerance also increased in rice, wheat, and maize when the plants were grown in optimal acetic acid concentrations. As per researcher Jong Myong Kim 'We expect that external application of acetate to plants will be a useful, simple, and less expensive way to enhance drought tolerance in a variety of plants.'

How to Use Vinegar on Plants for Drought Resistance

If you'd like to try this out yourself, we can not attest to the end result, and the acetate factor has not been proven out for all plants. If you have a smidgen of cat like curiosity go for it !

Apple Cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar is acceptable as acetate, a highly diluted solution should be used. Dilute the vinegar with 40 parts water, and 1 part vinegar. That breaks down to roughly 3 oz. of vinegar per gallon of water. Vinegar also works as a herbicide, which can easily kill your plants if used in excess, the dillution is critical. It is also advisable that you avoid getting this solution of your plants leaves. I would suggest watering some of your plants by dowsing the base to gauge the results before trying it out on any large number of them.

Note: 1. Acetate-mediated novel survival strategy against drought in plants.

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