Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Game changer: New chemical keeps plants plump

25.10.2019

UC Riverside-led team's discovery offers hope for crops despite drought

A UC Riverside-led team has created a chemical to help plants hold onto water, which could stem the tide of massive annual crop losses from drought and help farmers grow food despite a changing climate.


Recovery from drought stress imposed on wheat. Plant treated with OP on the right.

Credit: UCR

"Drought is the No. 1 cause, closely tied with flooding, of annual crop failures worldwide," said Sean Cutler, a plant cell biology professor at UC Riverside, who led the research. "This chemical is an exciting new tool that could help farmers better manage crop performance when water levels are low."

Details of the team's work on the newer, more effective anti-water-loss chemical is described in a paper published today in Science. This chemical, Opabactin, is also known as "OP," which is gamer slang for "overpowered," referring to the best character or weapon in a game.

"The name is also a shoutout to my 10-year-old at home," Cutler said.

An earlier version of OP developed by Cutler's team in 2013, called Quinabactin, was the first of its kind. It mimics abscisic acid, or ABA, the natural hormone produced by plants in response to drought stress. ABA slows a plant's growth, so it doesn't consume more water than is available and doesn't wilt.

"Scientists have known for a long time that spraying plants with ABA can improve their drought tolerance," Cutler said. "However, it is too unstable and expensive to be useful to most farmers."

Quinabactin seemed to be a viable substitute for the natural hormone ABA, and companies have used it as the basis of much additional research, filing more than a dozen patents based on it. However, Quinabactin did not work well for some important plants, such as wheat, the world's most widely grown staple crop.

When ABA binds to a hormone receptor molecule in a plant cell, it forms two tight bonds, like hands grabbing onto handles. Quinabactin only grabs onto one of these handles.

Cutler, along with other collaborators from UCR and the Medical College of Wisconsin, searched millions of different hormone-mimicking molecules that would grab onto both handles. This searching, combined with some chemical engineering, resulted in OP.

OP grabs both handles and is 10-times stronger than ABA, which makes it a "super hormone." And it works fast. Within hours, Cutler's team found a measurable improvement in the amount of water plants released.

Because OP works so quickly, it could give growers more flexibility around how they deal with drought.

"One thing we can do that plants can't is predict the near future with reasonable accuracy," Cutler said. "Two weeks out, if we think there's a reasonable chance of drought, we have enough time to make decisions -- like applying OP -- that can improve crop yields."

Initial funding for this project was provided by Syngenta, an agrochemical company, and the National Science Foundation.

Cutler's team is now trying to "nerf" their discovery.

"That's gamer speak for when a weapon's power is reduced," Cutler said.

Whereas OP slows growth, the team now wants to find a molecule that will accelerate it. Such a molecule could be useful in controlled environments and indoor greenhouses where rainfall isn't as big a factor.

"There's times when you want to speed up growth and times when you want to slow it down," Cutler said. "Our research is all about managing both of those needs."

Media Contact

Jules Bernstein
Jules.Bernstein@ucr.edu
951-827-4580

 @UCRiverside

http://www.ucr.edu 

Jules Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2019/10/24/game-changer-new-chemical-keeps-plants-plump
http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw8848

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Microalgae food for honey bees
12.05.2020 | US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

nachricht Global trade in soy has major implications for the climate
07.05.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

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: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 5G switch provides 50 times more energy efficiency than currently exists

27.05.2020 | Information Technology

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

27.05.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Upwards with the “bubble shuttle”: How sea floor microbes get involved with methane reduction in the water column

27.05.2020 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>