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Crops have the tools to fight drought


An international team of scientists has discovered a way of making plants more resilient in drought conditions.

Led by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), the breakthrough is good news for farmers and a global agriculture industry under immense pressure. The team was able to increase the survival rates of some plants in drought conditions by 50%.

The scientists found that by boosting something called ‘chloroplast signals’ in the cells of plants, it was possible to make them more reactive to changing environments, where they would conserve water by closing pores on their leaves. The findings could help major world crops – like wheat, barley and rice – become more robust in climactically challenging situations.

“This basic scientific research has the potential to be able to improve farming productivity not just in Australia, but potentially in other countries that suffer from drought stress,” said Dr Pogson, from ANU Research School of Biology. “If we can even alleviate drought stress a little it would have a significant impact on our farmers and the economy.”

The research was published in eLIFE.

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