Innovation That Matters

Though the initial experiment was conducting using thale cress, the researchers claim their findings apply to all crops | Photo source Dr. Yoshikatsu Matsubayashi (Nagoya University)

Boosting crop yields by reducing stress

Agriculture & Energy

The findings could allow plants to continue growing well even in fluctuating and extreme conditions


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Spotted: Abiotic stresses, such as adverse environmental conditions, can significantly reduce crop performance, with crop yield losses ranging from 50 to 70 per cent. With the increase in extreme weather conditions caused by climate change only expected to grow, the need to find ways to continue producing healthy crops, even in less-than-ideal environments, is essential. Research conducted at the Graduate School of Science at Nagoya University in Japan might hold the key.

Following an investigation into the role of hormones and receptors in plant stress response, Professor Yoshikatsu Matsubayashi and Assistant Professor Mari Ogawa-Ohnishi and their team discovered the PSY family of peptides, which function as hormones and impact a plant’s growth or stress responses.

During their experiments, they concluded that plants stopped releasing PSY when stressed, the absence of which triggers stress response genes. And when devoting its energy to a stress response, a plant cannot grow efficiently.

Essentially, when plants are stressed – whether that be that they are exposed to extreme heat, planted in overly salty soil, or infected with bacteria – a ‘switch’ is flipped which stops the production of PSY. Once that stops, the plant turns from growth mode into stress mode. Knowing that this ‘switch‘ is present opens the opportunity for scientists to intentionally flip it back in future, meaning a crop can be put back into growth mode and continue to produce food even when in stressed conditions.

Optimising crop yields is a big preoccupation for Agtech companies. Springwise has also spotted bacteria that encourage crop growth in poor conditions, and AI-powered indoor farms that produce more fruits and vegetables with less resources.

Written By: Matilda Cox



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