Leveraging abscisic acid receptors for efficient water use inArabidopsis

Research Highlight

Raising water-saving crops

© Jacobo Zanella/Moment/Getty

© Jacobo Zanella/Moment/Getty

Water used for agriculture could be reduced by tricking harvest plants into behaving as they do when water is scarce, says a Technical University of Munich (TUM) study.

By opening and closing the pores on their leaves, "plants have the ability to cut water loss during CO2 absorption in half, but they will only switch to this water-saving mode when water is in short supply", Erwin Grill, who led the team, said.

The key to this is abscisic acid, a hormone that is more plentiful in plants when water is scarce. Using Arabidopsis, a popular research plant, the team found that if the number of receptors that detected abscisic acid was increased, then the amount of water needed by the plants could be reduced by 40 per cent.

The team believes it should be possible to apply these findings to the growing of crop plants, which would be a step towards ensuring future food security.

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  1. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113, 6791–6796 (2016). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1601954113
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Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany 1