Scientists create drought-resistant tobacco plants

November 27th, 2007 - 4:31 pm ICT by admin  

London, November 27 (ANI): Researchers at the University of California, Davis have created drought-resistant tobacco plants that can survive through long dry periods.

Plant biologist Eduardo Blumwald claims that the plants created by them thrive on 70 per cent less water than ordinary tobacco plants.

Water-starved plants often cope with the stress by wilting and shedding their leaves. The process by which plants sacrifice older leaves to stay alive just long enough to make seeds is known as their survival strategy.

Blumwald says that the approach may boost long-term survival in the wild, but it can be devastating to crop yields.

After developing drought-resistant tobacco plants, the researchers are not trying to apply the same approach to tomatoes, rice and wheat.

Crops adopt the same strategy that those plants in the wild use. If things go wrong, they put out some seeds and die. But we do not grow crops for that, Nature magazine quoted Blumwald as saying.

He revealed that the transgenic tobacco plants created by his team produce a protein that makes cytokinin, a plant hormone that promotes cell division, in stressed tissue.

While ordinary tobacco plants shed their leaves and die if not watered for two weeks, the transgenic plants can keep their foliage and revive when watering resumes.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a report said that the transgenic plants also suffered a 12 per cent reduction in yield when watered with 70 per cent less water than normally used.

Jeffrey Leung, a plant biologist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research in Gif-sur-Yvette, who was not affiliated with the study, said that the findings were surprising because a previous study had focused on another plant hormone called abscisic acid as the key to manipulating drought tolerance.

Genetic screens have turned up hundred of mutants that are altered in drought tolerance, and if there is a link of the mutation to a hormone, it has almost always been abscisic acid, said Leung.

Arie Altman, a plant biologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, also welcomed the results by saying that the work was a significant contribution towards improving drought tolerance in crops. (ANI)

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