“Extreme plants” that grow when stressed

When faced with very dry, salty or cold conditions, most plants try to conserve their resources. They develop fewer leaves and roots and close their pores to retain water. If conditions do not improve, they eventually die. But this does not apply to “extreme plants”.

Some plants, known as hardy plants, have evolved to adapt to harsh environments. Schrenkiella parvulaIt grows, from the mustard family, in harsh conditions that would kill most plants, Eurek Alert wrote.

This plant grows along the shores of Lake Tuz in Turkey, where salt concentrations in the water can be six times higher than in the ocean. In a paper published in nature plantsresearchers at Stanford University found that Schrenkiella parvula It actually grows faster in these stressful conditions.

How do extreme plants work?

“Most plants produce a stress hormone that acts as a signal to stop growth. But for severe plants, this signal gives the green light.” Jose Denini, associate professor of biology at Stanford University, lead author of the research paper, said: “The plant speeds up its growth in response to the stress hormone. This”.

Denini and his colleagues are studying Schrenkiella parvula For a better understanding of how some plants handle challenging conditions. Their findings could help scientists create crops that are able to thrive in low-quality soils and adapt to the stresses of climate change.

“With climate change, we cannot expect the environment to remain the same. Our crops must adapt to these rapidly changing conditions. If we can understand the mechanisms that plants use to withstand stress, we can help them do so better and faster,” Ying Sun said. , a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute who also received his Ph.D. from Stanford. The main part of the institute. paper.

surprise answer

Schrenkiella parvula It is a member of the cabbage family, which contains cabbage, broccoli, kale and other important food crops. In regions where climate change is expected to increase the duration and severity of droughts, it would be beneficial if these crops were able to survive or even thrive in those drought times.

When plants experience dry, salty, or cold conditions (all of which lead to water-related stress), they produce a hormone called abscisic acid, or ABA. This hormone activates certain genes, essentially telling the plant how to respond.

The researchers examined the number of plants in the cabbage family, including Schrenkiella parvula, responded to the ABA. While the growth of other plants has slowed or stopped, the roots Schrenkiella parvula It has grown faster.

Schrenkiella parvula It is closely related to the other plants in the study and has a genome of a very similar size, but ABA activates different sections of its genetic code to create completely different behaviour.

“Reconnecting that network explains, at least in part, why we receive different growth responses in stress-tolerant species,” Denini said.

future food crops

Denini said understanding the stress response and how it can be expected in other species could be more beneficial, not just for food crops.

Schrenkiella parvula It is also associated with several types of oilseeds that can be designed and used as sustainable sources of fuel for aircraft or other biofuels.

If the common plants could be adapted to grow in harsher environmental conditions, such as those in which the extreme plants grow, there would be more land available for their cultivation.

“We can grow bioenergy crops on land that is not suitable for growing food; for example, an agricultural field with degraded soil or where salinity has accumulated due to insufficient irrigation. These areas are not considered good farmland, but land that would otherwise be abandoned.”

Researchers want to create plants related to extremophiles

Denini and colleagues continue to investigate the network of responses that can help plants survive in extreme conditions. Now that they have an idea of ​​how to sustain their growth Schrenkiella parvula When dealing with limited water resources and high salinity, researchers will try to create related plants in order to do the same, modifying genes that activate ABA.

“We are trying to understand what the ‘secret sauce’ is for these plant species, what allows them to thrive in these unique environments, and how we can use this knowledge to create specific traits in our crops,” said Denini.

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