Several stories here and here on a collaboration of scientists in Canada, the United States and Spain who report that they have found an elusive group of proteins that help plants survive drought, cold and heat. One of the researchers, Julian Schroeder, Professor at the University of California at San Diego is on this year’s BIO Convention panel “Saving Harvests, Lives & Livelihoods: Breakthroughs in Plant Stress Tolerance Technologies.”
From the San Diego Tribune story:
By focusing on a plant’s natural defense mechanisms, University of California researchers believe they have cracked an elusive genetic secret – a discovery that someday could help farmers produce more food with less water.
Their prize is a protein molecule that relays signals to cells that help plants cope with environmental stress, such as drought.
“It has indeed been a holy grail,” said Julian Schroeder, a biologist at UC San Diego who was part of the research team.
The San Diego Tribune story quotes Dr. Michael Metzlaff, senior scientist for Bayer BioScience:
“The discovery from Schroeder and Cutler may open new routes for breeding new crop, fruit and vegetable varieties which can be grown in dry areas, (such) as California,” Michael Metzlaff, senior scientist for Bayer BioScience based in Belgium, said via e-mail.
“This would open novel routes in crop breeding and commercial agriculture. . . . The amount of water needed for irrigation could be cut down without loss of harvests. This would mean a substantial cost saving for farmers and the whole of California.”
Last year at the BIO Convention Dr. Metzlaff, Group Leader, Crop Productivity Research at Bayer CropScience stated, “The increased tolerance of crops to major environmental stresses and the enhancement of productivity will be critical as water scarcity and the world population grows. We must continue to develop plants that withstand short term stresses, increase yield stability and allow planting in high stress areas.”
Dr. Metzlaff returns to the BIO Convention this year as a moderator on the “Saving Harvests, Lives & Livelihoods: Breakthroughs in Plant Stress Tolerance Technologies” panel.