Biotech Updates

Scientists Discover Enzymes to Help Wheat Cope with Salinity

April 3, 2019

Scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have discovered two enzymes that explain the sensitivity of wheat plants to salty soils.

The UWA research describes the two wheat enzymes, which are especially sensitive to salt and appear to be the weak link leading to plant death in saline soils. The researchers also discovered wheat has a natural defense system that can bypass one of the sensitive enzymes, partially protecting against salt.

The bypass system, called the ‘GABA shunt', allows wheat plants to stop using one of their salt-sensitive enzymes when threatened by salinity. However, the resistance provided by the GABA shunt also appears to be limited, and is overpowered by especially saline soils. Dr. Nicolas Taylor, lead author of the study said, "If we can learn how to control the GABA shunt, its timing and intensity, we may be able to boost the wheat plant's natural resistance to salt, without an impact on yield."

Read more details in the UWA news release.