Scientists find way to grow plants with less water
The technique could be used to improve crop yield.
Scientists have identified a new technique to help plants grow with less water.
Crop irrigation is estimated to account for around 70% of freshwater use on the planet.
A team at the University of Glasgow has developed a way of speeding up the opening and closing of the stomata – pores in the leaves of plants – through which carbon dioxide (CO2) enters for photosynthesis.
Plants must optimise the trade-off between photosynthesis and water loss to ensure plant growth and yield Dr Maria Papanatsiou
Researchers used a synthetic, light-activated ion channel engineered from plant and algal virus proteins.
Plants lose most of their water through stomata and previous attempts to reduce water usage by manipulating these pores has generally come at a cost in CO2 uptake, the team said.
But the plants engineered at Glasgow showed improved growth while conserving water use.
The modified plants grew as normal, and substantially better, under typical field conditions, fixing more CO2 while losing less water to the atmosphere.