Researchers Find a Way to Help ‘Stressed-out Plants’ Adapt to Environmental Changes

The research could help with food production as plants desperately try to adapt to environmental changes.
Donovan Alexander

You might have had a stressful day, month, or year but plants have been stressing out over the past couple of decades and the environment shifts dramatically causing more extreme weather conditions. Answering the questions, what will a three-degree-warmer world look like and how will plants fare in more extreme weather conditions, a team of researchers are on a mission to breed plants that can better withstand environmental stressors.


Helping Plants Cope With Change

Just like most people around the planet, plants do not like change. According to researchers at the Salk Institute plants use chloroplast-to-nucleus communication to regulate gene expression and withstand the rapidly changing environment.

For those of you who missed Biology class the plant cell structures responsible for converting energy from sunlight into chemical energy are called chloroplasts. In short, the nucleus of the cell transmits information to the chloroplasts to maintain steady energy production.

As scientists recently discovered,  these same chloroplasts play an integral role in how proteins are made in damaged or stressed out plants. Gaining the proper insights from this plant process could unlock the keys to creating stronger plants that respond better to environmental stressors. Stressed plants could have far-reaching effects damaging both food and alternative fuel production.

As mentioned by Salk Professor Joanne Chory, director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and senior author of the paper, "Climate change holds the potential to affect our food system dramatically. When plants are stressed, like in a drought, they produce lower crop yields.

“If we understand how plants respond to stress, then perhaps we can develop a way to increase their resistance and keep food production high.”

As hinted at above, plants are very adaptable able to withstand natural environmental disasters and rapid changes to the environment. Yet, at the rate at which our environment is changing, it will be crucial to crack this code and the regulatory “functions for flowering plants, especially during stress”.

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