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Crop Biotech Update

Ice Plant's Red Pigments to Improve Crops' Saline Tolerance

May 6, 2015

A native plant from New Zealand called ice plant (Disphyma australe) can be a key in enhancing crop tolerance to salinity. Ice plant exhibits red pigmentation that was believed to be the one responsible for its resistance to salinity due to its varying intensity depending on its distance from the shore. The red pigments, called betalains, contained in the ice plant was analyzed and examined by Gagardep Jain, a Victoria University of Wellington PhD student.

In his study, the incorporation of betalains in green leaved ice plant made the plant tolerant of saline conditions. This finding suggests that betalains functions as a shield for plant tissues against free radical damage caused by salt and too much sunlight. This result indicates the potential of betalain to be used in developing and breeding crops to enhance tolerance under saline condition.

Details of the study can be read at Victoria University of Wellington's website.