Crop Biotech Update

Australian Scientists Identify Natural Plant Mechanism for Water Loss

August 17, 2022

In a discovery that could help develop climate change resilient crops, scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and James Cook University (JCU) have identified an “exquisite” natural mechanism that helps plants limit their water loss with little effect on carbon dioxide (CO2) intake, an essential process for photosynthesis, plant growth, and crop yield.

According to Dr. Diego Marquez, co-author of the paper published in Nature Plants, plants continuously lose water through pores in the ‘skin' of their leaves. These same pores allow CO2 to enter the leaves and are critical to their survival. For every unit of CO2 gained, plants typically lose hundreds of units of water, which is the reason why plants require a lot of water in order to grow and survive.

The mechanism identified by the researcher team is activated when the environment is dry, such as on a hot summer day, to allow the plant to reduce water loss with little effect on its CO2 uptake. JCU Associate Professor Lucas Cernusak said they believe that the mechanism that plants use to do this resides in water gating proteins in the membranes of cells inside the leaf, called aquaporins. This is an exquisite solution to restrict water movement out of the cells inside the leaf, while still allowing diffusion of carbon dioxide into them.

For more details, read the article on the JCU website.

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