Developing Less Thirsty GM Crops

Developing Less Thirsty GM Crops

As concerns about water availability grow, there’s news about a genetically modified crop needing less water to grow.


Researchers from the University of California Davis have obtained genetically modified crops that can survive drought and can grow with 70% less irrigation water. Using tobacco as a model, the scientists successfully suppressed the programmed death of leaf cells and equipped the plants to survive severe drought conditions. This was done by inserting a gene that control the level of a plant hormone called cytokinin, which promotes cell division in young tissues.

Introducing the gene into stressed tissues interrupted the biochemical chain of events that normally leads to the loss of the plant’s leaves during drought. Tests showed that unlike ordinary tobacco plants that shed their leaves and died if not watered for two weeks, the transgenic plants did not display any signs of severe deterioration. In addition, the transgenic plants only showed 12% less in yield when water supply was reduced by 70%. The discovery may prove to be important in agriculture in arid regions, especially as water is expected to become more scarce in the future because of climate change.
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(Source: University of California-Davis)