Engineered crops use 25% less water
March 13, 2018 By Greenhouse Canada
By increasing the levels of one protein coded by one single gene, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reduced crop water use by 25%.
That is a substantial amount of water.
Known as PsbS, this protein helps relay how much light is in the surrounding environment. By raising the levels of this specific protein, plants are tricked into thinking there isn’t enough light for photosynthesis to take place. When conditions aren’t ideal for photosynthesis, plants can close their stomata, which are pores normally used to intake carbon dioxide. Water also transpires from these pores, so partially closing them can help prevent water loss.
According to the researchers, the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide level is enough to counteract the partially open stomata, allowing plants to get the food they need without compromising yield.
The research was conducted on tobacco, but this gene is universal to all plants, so there’s potential to do the same in a number of different crops.
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