Just 2 amino acids, the building blocks that make up proteins, are responsible for the high drought tolerance found in cereals.
This was discovered by researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany. The new insights have been published in the journal Current Biology where Hedrich, Geiger and Ache describe how they pinpointed the tiny difference between grasses and other plants.
The grass family includes all the major cereals. The grasses can adjust more quickly to dry conditions and sustain lack of water better than other plants. But why are grasses more tolerant to water scarcity? Can other food crops be bred for this property, too, to assure or boost agricultural yields in the future? This could be important in the face of a growing world population and climate change that will entail more periods of dry and hot weather.
The scientists discovered that the difference between the grasses and other food crops can be attributed to the protein SLAC1 of the guard cells. Just 2 amino acids, the building blocks that make up proteins, are responsible for the plant’s drought tolerance. “We now want to find out whether this small difference can be harnessed to make potatoes, tomatoes or rapeseed more tolerant to stress as well,” says Rainer Hedrich.