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 Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>