The constantly rising world population and the changing climate will make it essential in the future to cultivate crops in soils where current varieties are unproductive. These so-called marginal soils are often too dry or contain too much salt for cultivation. There are many such areas around the world that are currently not being used for food production, and climate change will lead to huge increases in marginal soils.
Varieties that are less susceptible to drought and/or salt might make it possible to grow crops in marginal soils. Within plant biology, there are mechanisms known which allow plants to protect themselves against the a biotic stress caused by a lack of water or excessive salt. Using the genes which set these mechanisms into action and genetic modification, varieties can be developed which make the most of these mechanisms and are therefore resistant to drought and salt.
Shital Dixit studied the so-called 'HARDY' gene, found in a collection of Arabidopsis mutants in which certain jumping genes increase the activity of genes. Via genetic modification, Dixit developed Arabidopsis plants in which the HARDY gene was more active. She discovered that these genetically modified plants grew better under drought stress than ordinary Arabidopsis plants. The 'HARDY plants' used water more efficiently than normal plants. During desiccation of the soil, the plants were found to vaporise considerably less water while maintaining their growth. When the soil was dry, the HARDY plants lived on and recovered after being given water. They also proved to be resistant against high saline concentrations in the soil.
By means of genetic modification, Dixit managed to transfer the HARDY gene to rice. The HARDY rice plants also turned out to be tolerant to both drought and salt. To Dixit’s surprise, these improved rice plants also performed at least as well in optimal cultivation conditions as ordinary rice plants. The general rule in plant biology is that plants with increased stress tolerance perform worse in optimal conditions than plants without tolerance. This makes the HARDY system even more promising in practical applications.
The HARDY gene encodes for a so-called transcription factor, meaning that a whole chain of genes is regulated. A plant can therefore turn an entire drought or salt tolerance mechanism on or off with a single switch. Dixit also discovered that the SHINE gene, which also encodes for a transcription factor, is capable of making rice tolerant to salt as well.
In her research, Dixit showed how a large group of plants with mutations that cause genes to be more active can be valuable for tracking genes that increase stress tolerance. Dixit selected two mutants from one of these plant groups, which after more detailed research proved to use water more efficiently and to have a tolerance for higher saline concentrations.
Dixit performed her research at Plant Research International (Wageningen UR). It was financed by the WOTRO programme of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
Jac Niessen | alfa
Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility
17.10.2018 | Universität Zürich
Goldilocks principle in biology -- fine-tuning the 'just right' signal load
15.10.2018 | Aarhus University
A new building material developed at Empa is about to be launched on the market: "memory-steel" can not only be used to reinforce new, but also existing concrete structures. When the material is heated (one-time), prestressing occurs automatically. The Empa spin-off re-fer AG is now presenting the material with shape memory in a series of lectures.
So far, the steel reinforcements in concrete structures are mostly prestressed hydraulically. This re-quires ducts for guiding the tension cables, anchors for...
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
23.10.2018 | Event News
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2018 | Information Technology
23.10.2018 | Life Sciences