Researchers from Chinese and American institutions claim to have found a method to assist plants in enduring intense heat. This study could aid plants in fending off climate change, which is threatening agricultural crops worldwide. The results may be crucial for safeguarding food supplies during heatwaves if they can be applied to commonly produced crops.
A changing climate
In some parts of the world, the chance of heatwaves has increased by up to 10 times due to the climate crisis. Crops might die as a result of heat waves. Plant defenses are reduced by high temperatures and droughts, leaving crops open to attacks from insects and diseases that spread disease.
Heatwaves have the potential to completely destroy vast amounts of crops. This poses a hazard to the plants that produce cattle feed and those that produce ethanol for automobiles.
What transpires to plants in hot weather?
The research group selected thale cress, a plant frequently used in science lab testing and is a mustard family member. Salicylic acid, a plant defense hormone, was investigated by the researchers. Salicylic acid levels can increase up to seven times when pests or diseases threaten plants. This strengthens the plant’s defenses and strengthens its immune system.
However, in scorching conditions, plants cannot boost their salicylic acid levels, rendering them helpless against infections or insects. This was confirmed by the researchers even during brief bursts of extreme heat.
How do plants endure extreme temperatures?
When temperatures rise, scientists have discovered a mechanism to stop this decrease in salicylic acid synthesis and strengthen plant immunity. Food shortages during periods of intense heat might be avoided if common crops can develop the same heat resistance. The researchers sought to understand how plants perceive temperature and find a strategy to change this perception.
Years were spent studying phytochromes, which serve as internal thermometers and signal to the plant when to start developing and blossoming in the warmer springtime.
They performed their experiments on plants with modified phytochromes that were always active, yet even these plants had decreased defenses when exposed to high temperatures. To examine the plant’s genes at various temperatures, scientists shifted to “next-generation sequencing.”
Can plants that can withstand heat aid in the food crisis?
Transferring this heat resilience to widespread food crops is now a difficulty. The CBP60g mutation system is currently being tested on rapeseed, and the researchers report encouraging findings. Under heat stress, plants, including tomato, rice, and rapeseed, function similarly to thale cress. If the gene mutation causes similar effects in other common crops, it might imply maintaining stable crop output even in hot climates.
Source: Yale University