`Studying Plant Reactions to Environmental Stressors Key to Sustainable Agriculture - Olive Oil Times

Studying Plant Reactions to Environmental Stressors Key to Sustainable Agriculture

By Paolo DeAndreis
Jun. 2, 2022 12:35 UTC

A team of researchers in Sweden gained new insights into the mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms asso­ci­ated with plant reac­tions to envi­ron­men­tal stres­sors, such as touch­ing, prun­ing or infec­tion.

The sci­en­tists explored the inner work­ing of such reac­tions and the result­ing behav­ior of the plant, dis­cov­er­ing new cru­cial genetic fac­tors which could impact crop yields.

We have iden­ti­fied a com­pletely new sig­nal­ing path­way that con­trols a plan­t’s response to phys­i­cal con­tact and touch. Now the search for more paths con­tin­ues.- Essam Darwish, researcher, Lund University

The Lund University team reit­er­ated that plants react to mechan­i­cal stim­uli to bet­ter cope with spe­cific envi­ron­men­tal threats.

The study pub­lished in Science Advances explained that mechan­i­cal stim­u­la­tion trig­gers rapid gene expres­sion changes and affects plant appear­ance (thig­mo­mor­pho­gen­e­sis) and flow­er­ing.”

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Thigmomorphogenesis is gen­er­ated by repeated stim­u­la­tion and includes sig­nif­i­cant mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the plant mor­phol­ogy, such as dwarfism, pithi­ness, altered mechan­i­cal prop­er­ties of the stem, delayed flow­er­ing, improved anchor­age strength of roots and reduced stom­atal aper­ture.

Such changes tend to improve the abil­ity of the plants to resist strong winds and improve their response to infec­tion. In addi­tion, these changes might strengthen resilience to cold, salin­ity, or drought.

The new research and a few other stud­ies explor­ing sim­i­lar plant reac­tions con­tribute to a grow­ing knowl­edge of mech­a­nisms that sci­en­tists believe could be cru­cial to improv­ing farm­ing tech­niques.

Mechanostimulation has been gain­ing atten­tion as a poten­tial method for sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tices to improve food secu­rity,” the researchers wrote.

However, the plant response to mechan­i­cal stim­u­la­tion is very com­plex, as it depends on the inten­sity of mechan­i­cal load and fre­quency of expo­sures,” they added. Understanding the mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nism of plant mechanop­er­cep­tion and thig­mo­mor­pho­gen­e­sis is imper­a­tive to apply this method for large-scale farm­ing.”

Previous research iden­ti­fied mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms related to plant mechanop­er­cep­tion. Other stud­ies noted the impor­tant rela­tion­ship between jas­monic acid and touch sig­nal­ing.

Despite many years of research on how tran­scrip­tional responses to mechan­i­cal stim­u­la­tion in plants are con­trolled, only a few reg­u­la­tors have been iden­ti­fied and con­sis­tently val­i­dated,” the researchers wrote.

Here, we used reverse genet­ics to fur­ther char­ac­ter­ize the mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms under­ly­ing touch sig­nal­ing,” they added.

For exam­ple, Olivier Van Aken, a biol­o­gist at Lund University, told ScienceAlert mag­a­zine: We exposed the plant thale cress to soft brush­ing, after which thou­sands of genes were acti­vated, and stress hor­mones were released. We then used genetic screen­ing to find the genes that were respon­si­ble for this process.”

According to his col­league Essam Darwish, the study results solve a sci­en­tific mys­tery that has eluded the world’s mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gists for 30 years.”

We have iden­ti­fied a com­pletely new sig­nal­ing path­way that con­trols a plan­t’s response to phys­i­cal con­tact and touch,” he added. Now the search for more paths con­tin­ues.”

The researchers believe that a bet­ter under­stand­ing of those mech­a­nisms might bring new oppor­tu­ni­ties for global agri­cul­ture, with cli­mate change and con­flicts threat­en­ing food secu­rity in many regions.

Given the extreme weather con­di­tions and pathogen infec­tions that cli­mate change leads to, it is of utmost impor­tance to find new eco­log­i­cally respon­si­ble ways to improve crop pro­duc­tiv­ity and resis­tance,” Van Aken con­cluded.


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