Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stressed crops impede higher agriculture yields

Seed Daily: Like people, plants experience stress. And also, like people, the response to that stress can determine success. People can exercise, or rest, or talk about the problem. For plants, ways to deal with stress are internal. And ISU researchers are trying to understand how they do it.

Stephen Howell is a professor of genetics, development and cell biology and former director of the Plant Sciences Institute at ISU. His research is featured in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. "We've discovered a new arm of the pathway by which plants activate a response to environmental stress," he said.

Adverse environmental conditions, such as drought, flood, heat and other stresses, affect yield more than crop pests and diseases. Finding a way to maintain high yields for plants under stress is a goal of plant breeders and other agriculture stakeholders, said Howell. "These are environmental stresses that the farmers can't control," Howell said. "They are acts of nature. And now seed companies are interested in trying to equip plants with the ability to tolerate stress."

…"As it turns out, responses that are activated under stress conditions actually inhibit the growth of plants," said Howell. "This allows them to conserve their energy to survive the stress conditions." For plants in the wild, this response is a survival tactic, he said. In production agriculture crops, however, these responses reduce yields…

Aerial view of a crop circle in Diessenhofen, shot by Hansueli Krapf, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: