Bolting is the production of a flowering stem (or stems) on agricultural and horticultural crops before the crop is harvested, in a natural attempt to produce seeds and reproduce. These flowering stems are usually vigorous extensions of existing leaf-bearing stems, and in order to produce them, a plant diverts resources away from producing the edible parts such as leaves or roots, resulting in flavor and texture changes, withering, and in general, a poor quality harvest. Plants that have produced flowering stems in this way are said to have bolted. Crops inclined to bolt include lettuce, basil, beetroot, brassicas, spinach, celery, onion, and leek.
Bolting is induced by plant hormones of the gibberellin family, and can occur as a result of several factors, including changes in day length, the prevalence of high temperatures at particular stages in a plant's growth cycle, and the existence of stresses such as insufficient water or minerals. These factors may interact in a complex way. Day length may affect the propensity to bolt in that some plants are "long day plants", some are "short day plants" and some are "day neutral" (see photoperiodism), so for example when a long day plant, such as spinach, experiences increasingly long days that reach a particular length, it will be inclined to bolt. Low or high temperatures can affect the propensity of some plants to bolt if they are experienced for sufficient periods at particular points in the life cycle of the plant; once these conditions have been met, plants that require such a trigger will subsequently bolt regardless of subsequent temperatures. Plants under stress may respond by bolting so that they can produce seeds before they die.
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- "Bolting in vegetables". The Royal Horticultural Society 2018.
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