Stress Adaptation Lets Plants Thrive While Using Water Efficiently
This genetic modification makes a variety of crops with an enhanced tolerance to drought through increased expression of a drought-responsive regulator. Agriculture in the 21st century is expected to face water crises caused by climate change, limited water sources, and rapid growth in demand for food and energy from human society. In recent decades, drought has indeed become more frequent and severe globally and has exerted great impact on crop production, economic stability and societal sustainability. In some years, drought has affected 80 percent of U.S. agricultural production. In response to this agricultural threat, University of Florida researchers have found a way to aid drought survival of major crops. Plants expressing a specific rice gene display strong resilience in abiotic stress, such as drought. Increasing expression of this gene or its orthologs in a variety of crops allows for enhanced capacity for drought survival.
Gene that makes crops more resilient in drought conditions
- Creates drought-tolerant plants, reducing yield loss due to severe water shortage
- Reduces plant dependence on water, expanding the range of sites where crops can be grown
- Targets drought, a worldwide problem that will worsen with climate change and population growth, mitigating global food insecurity in the 21st century
Plants and crops are constantly challenged by a variety of stresses during their lifecycles. These stresses promote evolution of mechanisms to survive harsh environmental conditions, such as drought. Inventors discovered that a specific rice gene was strongly induced by water deficit. Studies show that down-regulation of this gene increases rice sensitivity to drought. Researchers also found that transgenic plants with increased levels of this gene were significantly better able to survive drought-like conditions.