Scientists from Utrecht University are working on plant resilience mechanism and they have discovered that some plants quickly feel that they are underwater when flooded, and initiate the processes that prevent them from drowning.
Flooding is marked all over the world for a variety of reasons. Heavy rainfall is the simplest explanation for rainfall. When it rains moderately the water gets drained off into appropriate basins and reservoir. But when it rains heavily all the infrastructure and systems are overwhelmed and water does not drain off as quickly as it needs to be. The drainage system backs up, and the water level rises – sometimes into homes till our knee. Water gets logged in cases when it rains over a long period.
Loss of life and damage to buildings and other structures, including bridges, sewage systems, roadways, and canals are primarily affected. Floods also frequently damage electricity transmission and at times electricity generation which ultimately leads to loss of power. Crops are also sensitive to extreme climate changes, and flood causes a major loss in yields annually. Just like humans, plants need oxygen to survive and if appropriate oxygen is not provided they suffocate underwater. In 2019 there were a series of floods In India that affected over nine states in late July and early August 2019, due to incessant rains. Heavy rainfall with loss of crop yield and huge damage to lives and property was observed. It is devastating to see agriculture land, roads, homes to be submerged in water.
Extreme climatic condition like flood and drought have an immense effect on the yields of crops. If a potato field is completely flooded then there is complete yields loss within a day. Recently Scientists from Utrecht University are working on plant resilience mechanism and they have discovered that some plants quickly feel that they are underwater when flooded, and initiate the processes that prevent them from drowning. Researchers have already demonstrated how plants use ethylene-a gaseous hormone as a signal to trigger underwater survival reaction. Once this signalling mechanism and the genes involved in it are identified then it may lead to the opening of many doors towards stress-resilient, flood-proof crops that can survive even in unpredictable stressful condition.
The research was published in Nature communication together with scientists from Nijmegen, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the U.S. In the paper they have described series of molecular events that are triggered in plants and their genes during the flood. According to them, ethylene gets accumulated in plants during the flood and this could trigger a survival response in the plants at a very early stage, even before the oxygen levels drop.
According to the researchers, if plants can detect that they are flooded, through their mechanism then they can increase their chance of survival. One of the strategies is snorkel response which deals to regain contact of submerged leaves and stem with air, by increasing upward to emerge out of water. Whereas another strategy is to suppress the growth and metabolism in order to minimize oxygen and minerals consumption until the flood receded.
“This is very useful: a plant that goes into survival mode early can last longer under water and that can make the difference between life and death”
-Sjon Hartman, a plant biologist at the Plant Ecophysiology group at Utrecht University.
The Future aspect of flood-resistant plants
When a locality is affected with the flood, somehow the rescue mission operates to save human and animal lives but the plants and agriculture area is drained out. This discovery will play a key role in survival of plants. At extreme condition knowing the right course will help in the survival. Scientists have got a hold on to tolerance mechanism which holds abundant potential for the future development of flood-tolerant crops.
“Now that we know the genes associated with flooding survival, we can introduce them back into plants that lack them and thus program flooded plants to go into survival mode sooner, this will enable us to make future-proof crops that are better able to withstand flooding.”
– Research leaders Dr Rashmi Sasidharan and Prof. Rens Voesenek of Utrecht University
1. Sjon Hartman, Zeguang Liu, Hans van Veen, Jorge Vicente, Emilie Reinen, Shanice Martopawiro, Hongtao Zhang, Nienke van Dongen, Femke Bosman, George W. Bassel, Eric J. W. Visser, Julia Bailey-Serres, Frederica L. Theodoulou, Kim H. Hebelstrup, Daniel J. Gibbs, Michael J. Holdsworth, Rashmi Sasidharan & Laurentius A. C. J. Voesenek
-Ethylene-mediated nitric oxide depletion pre-adapts plants to hypoxia stress
Drafted by Nagama Nadaf
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