Wed. Jun 16th, 2021

Because of the warming climate, the world we live in continues to change the way the environment operates will follow suit including how food crops grow. From University of California Riverside scientists thanks to the new study published in the journal Cell, based on their genetic makeup there could be a way to save the crops that aren’t drought tolerant. “Frequently, researchers do lab and greenhouse experiments, but farmers grow things in the field, and this data looks at field samples too,” Neelima Sinha, a UC Davis professor of plant biology and the paper’s co-author, said.

The focus of the experiment was common food crops such as rice and tomatoes. According to the team, the plants’ genes produce one very important thing: Xylem. These vessels carry nutrients and water from roots up the shoots and through photosynthesis food is created. “Xylem is very important to shore up plants against drought as well as salt and other stresses,” said Siobhan Brady, a lead study author and a professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Ligin and suberin are created by these plants’ genes.  Ligin provides mechanical support of the crops and waterproofs cells.  The latter surrounds plant cells in a thick layer, in drought-like conditions which helps to retain water. Lignin and suberin are natural forms of drought protection. These compounds can be enhanced as the genes that encode for them in this very specific layer of cells have been identified said study co-author Julia Bailey-Serres, a UC Riverside professor of genetics. She said they are so excited that they have learned so much about the genes regulating this moisture barrier layer. It is very important for improving drought tolerance for crops.

These genes along with the plants’ root meristem are the most important qualities that make for long-lasting crop growth the researchers explained.  According to Brandy the hidden half of the plant which is hidden in the ground is critical for breeders to consider if they want to grow plants successfully. Being able to modify the meristem of a plant’s roots will help them engineer crops with more desirable properties.

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