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The beauty of
plant architecture

Adapted photograph


Inspiration and composition

How can rice farming become more sustainable? Martina’s research revolves around finding varieties of rice that are more competitive against weeds, reducing the need for herbicide use to eliminate those weeds.

Martina looks for varieties of rice that are “bushy” enough to keep the weeds from overgrowing the fields in the first six weeks after seeding. This period was shown to be a crucial time window, largely determining how much rice a field would ultimately yield. In her experiments Martina took 344 separate rice varieties from all over the world, which were investigated for their competitiveness against weeds.


She traveled to the Philippines to grow and screen all the 344 varieties in the greenhouse. She went back a second time to plant a subset of the whole panel in the fields - the ones she predicted to be competitive.

Like starting a new artwork with unfamiliar materials, Martina started her project without prior knowledge. “I had no idea what a rice plant looked like. I knew rice on my plate, that’s it. What triggered me is that my research is very applied. I would go in the field and talk to farmers and saw that what I do would have a use for them. Within the first year I started to love my project. That feeling increased over time.”

To see how the rice canopy would develop, drone pictures were taken from above the field.

An experiment that sadly had to be abandoned prematurely because of the rising COVID-19

pandemic. Two years before in the greenhouse, Martina grew a single rice plant from each variety in individual pots and observed how

they developed as a reference. Pictures were taken regularly and fed through computer software that would use a certain script that filtered out the soil and pot, leaving just the green parts of the plant.


In ‘The beauty of plant architecture’, that script

malfunctioned, leaving the outlines of the pot and the soil visible. Martina found appreciation in the result, an abstract picture that leaves room for interpretation. The piece is a reminder that we can find beauty within the imperfections of life. To be able to see through the incomplete or the ugliness.

“I think my project combines science and art in a beautiful way. It taught me to look at this staple food from a completely different perspective. Rice plants are beautiful architected individual plants. I saw how different they are and started recognizing tiny

differences. I discovered the beauty and aesthetics of basic plant architecture and I started to value the plants around us more."

The artist

About Martina Huber

Martina is an innovative artist and scientist focused on sustainable rice farming. She explores rice varieties that naturally suppress weeds, reducing herbicide use. Starting with no prior knowledge of rice plants, Martina studied 344 varieties from around the world.


Her work blends science and art, as seen when a software glitch turned drone images into abstract art, highlighting the beauty in imperfections. This piece, "The Beauty of Plant Architecture," symbolizes finding beauty in flaws. Through her research, Martina developed a deep appreciation for the unique aesthetics of rice plants and their subtle differences, encouraging a greater appreciation for the natural world.

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