Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Discover How to Engineer Plants with Enhanced Drought Resistance without Affecting Growth

November 14, 2018

Drought is one of the effects of climate change that needs serious attention. This year's decreased rainfall and abnormally hotter temperatures in northern and eastern Europe caused large losses in cereals and potato crops and in other horticultural species.

Experts have long believed that that to ensure food security, it is becoming necessary to use plant varieties that are productive in drought conditions. Now, a team led by researcher Ana Caño-Delgado at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) in Spain has obtained plants with increased drought resistance by modifying the signaling of the plant steroid hormones, known as brassinosteroids. The study is the first to find to find a strategy to increase hydric stress resistance without affecting overall plant growth.

The researchers at CRAG studied drought resistance and growth in Arabidopsis thaliana plants with mutations in different brassinosteroid receptors. The researchers discovered that plants that over-express the BRL3 brassinosteroid receptor in the vascular tissue are more resistant to the lack of water than control plants and that, unlike the other mutants, they do not present defects in their development and growth. "We have discovered that modifying brassinosteroid signaling only locally in the vascular system, we are able to obtain drought resistant plants without affecting their growth", explains Caño-Delgado.

For more details, read the news release from CRAG.