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Crop Biotech Update

UC Riverside Study Discovers Genes to Help Crops Survive Climate Change

May 19, 2021
Photo Source: UC Riverside

Scientists from the University of California Riverside (UC Riverside) have discovered the genes in important agricultural crops such as tomatoes and rice that will help the crops survive longer during extreme periods of drought brought by global warming.

The scientists used xylem differentiation in tomato to profile the tomato root cell type mRNA fragments from greenhouse experiments and in the actual field. They discovered cell type-enriched genes responsible for telling the plant to make three things: xylem, lignin, and suberin. Xylem is a pipe-like vessel that transports water and nutrients from the roots to the shoots while lignin and suberin are the natural forms of drought protection by plants. Suberin prevents the plant from losing water whereas lignin waterproofs the cells and provides mechanical support.

The discovery of the genes that create the specific protective layers could lead to enhancing these compounds for the survivability of the crops. Furthermore, the genes were also found in rice and Arabidopsis which may indicate that the findings could be applied to other crops too.

For more details about the study, read the news article in UC Riverside and the journal article in Cell.

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