Resilient crop production
Our team is using innovative biotechnology solutions and a native Australian resurrection grass to improve our understanding of the way plants adapt to water loss.
To sustainably produce enough food to feed future populations we must substantially increase crop production and improve crop water use efficiency. Our research group uses innovative biotechnology solutions and a native Australian resurrection grass to improve our understanding of the way plants adapt to water loss. Advancing our knowledge of how naturally resilient plants conserve water will pave the way for the development of crops that are more resilient to abiotic stress.
Key impact: Harnessing the secrets of naturally resilient plants to improve crop drought tolerance
The competition for earth’s dwindling fresh water resources is set to increase in the future with the rising global population and demand for food. By using the strategies from naturally resilient plants, we can protect crops from adverse environmental conditions such as drought, the cause of up to 70 per cent of crop losses, and protect precious fresh water supplies for future generations. Farmers, consumers and the environment are set to benefit from the development of drought resilient crops.
We study naturally resilient plant species with the aim of transferring their stress tolerance strategies to improve drought tolerance in crops. These resilient plants can lose up to 95 per cent of their water and survive for months in this dry state. In contrast, most crops die upon loss of 40 per cent of their water. The aim is to produce high-protein crops such as chickpea that can produce premium quality grain with minimal water inputs.
We have found that resurrection plants survive by;
- Responding to water loss rapidly, shutting down photosynthesis and closing stomata to conserve water;
- Triggering autophagy pathways that suppression programmed cell death and senescence during drying; and
- Manipulating sugar and energy metabolism to retain the capacity to respond to stress.
Outcomes for industry
- Development of strategies to improve drought tolerance in crops
- Development of strategies that improve stress tolerance in general
- Demonstration of improved stress tolerance in chickpea
Through Australian Research Council and Joint BioEnergy Institute funded projects we’re studying plants, such as the native Australian Nicotiana benthamiana and ‘resurrection plant’ Tripogon loliiformis, to understand natural plant adaptation to harsh environments and to transfer these traits to crops.
Australian Research Council
Joint BioEnergy Institute