Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Arming plants against drought

26.07.2010
36 degrees in the shade, little rain for weeks. The maize is not growing, grains are ripening too early. How can plants survive ever-lengthier periods of heat and drought unscathed? This very issue will be examined by a new Bavarian research association involving the University of Würzburg.

“Forplanta: plants fit for the future” is the name of the new Bavarian research association which will commence its work in August 2010. The University of Würzburg’s representative will be plant scientist Professor Rainer Hedrich. Joining him will be researchers from three Munich institutes of higher education and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The Science Ministry will provide the association with funding of around EUR 1.5 million over the next three years.

Climate change: scientists are anticipating increasingly volatile weather conditions, with more frequent periods of drought and heat. For plants, this means water shortage and stress. As a result, they are becoming more susceptible to diseases and pests – a trend that is threatening agricultural yields.

Studying plant response to stress

How exactly do maize & co. respond to stress? “To date, only the effect of individual stress factors on plant productivity has been examined,” says Rainer Hedrich. The focus of the new research association will therefore be on the responses that plants exhibit when several stress factors occur at the same time: heat, drought, and pest infestation.

The scientists are aiming to gain new insights using the model plant popular among geneticists Arabidopsis thaliana. There are species of this plant that flourish in dry and hot climes, but also in cold regions. Which genes are responsible for these adjustments? How are they controlled? Can they be manipulated to make plants less vulnerable to drought and heat? Such questions will be considered by the new research association.

Stress hormone abscisic acid at the heart of the matter

At the heart of the matter lie the water balance of plants and the hormone abscisic acid. When a water shortage occurs, this acts as a stress hormone: it prompts stomata in the outer skin of the leaves to close, with the result that the plant loses less water.

The researchers want to improve the effectiveness of this abscisic acid, so plants demonstrate satisfactory growth even when there is little water available to them. If this works: how will this manipulation affect heat tolerance and the plant’s interaction with harmful fungi and bacteria? The association also intends to answer this question.

Ethical questions about green genetic engineering

The approach rooted in natural science will be accompanied by projects from the field of social science and ethics: the relationship between man and nature is also to be examined – particularly in view of green genetic engineering, i.e. the genetic modification of plants. The Forplanta association will explore this issue through the Institute for Scientific Issues related to Philosophy and Theology at the Munich School of Philosophy.

Application of knowledge to cultivated plants

If the research is successful, the intention later is to apply the findings to cultivated plants.

However, in many areas of the world, the climate is changing at a rate quicker than the speed at which plant cultivation can deliver grains adapted to stress. “Green genetic engineering should close this gap,” says Professor Hedrich. “But even with this targeted and therefore faster optimization there is no time to lose. This is because it is also important that we make useful plants and crops fit to fight the pests that climate change will bring.”

Scientists involved in Forplanta

• Prof. Jürgen Soll, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Department of Biology I, Biochemistry and Physiology of Plants (designated spokesperson for the association)
• Prof. Uwe Sonnewald, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Department of Biology, Biochemistry
• Prof. Erwin Grill, Technical University Munich, Department of Plant Sciences, Botany
• Prof. Rainer Hedrich, University of Würzburg, Julius-von-Sachs-Institute for Biosciences, Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics

• Prof. Christian Kummer, Munich School of Philosophy, Institute for Scientific Issues related to Philosophy and Theology

Contact at the University of Würzburg:

Prof. Dr. Rainer Hedrich, Julius-von-Sachs-Institute for Biosciences at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-86100, hedrich@botanik.uni-wuerzburg.de

Robert Emmerich | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New insight into why Pierce's disease is so deadly to grapevines
11.06.2018 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Where are Europe’s last primary forests?
29.05.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Better model of water under extreme conditions could aid understanding of Earth's mantle

21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

What are the effects of coral reef marine protected areas?

21.06.2018 | Life Sciences

The Janus head of the South Asian monsoon

21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>