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article imageOvercoming stress factors in plants by dealing with salt

By Tim Sandle     Sep 15, 2015 in Science
It may seem an odd statement at first but plants suffer from different forms of stress triggered by different influencing factors. One of the most serious is high salt levels in soil, which affects crop yields.
High salt levels (high salinity) is one of the reasons preventing more land on the planet from being used to grow crops and it is one of the obstacles to addressing world hunger.
High salt levels interfere with plant cell growth. Cell growth requires an interaction between the cellulose-producing protein complex (termed cellulose synthase) and an intracellular polymer structure (microtubules.) This is hampered when salt levels are high.
Under moderate salt conditions, researchers have discovered a family of proteins that help plants to overcome the salt. These are called “Companions of Cellulose synthase” (CC). The importance of these proteins was found in plants where the CC proteins were genetically engineered out. When plants missing the CC protein were attempted to be grown on salt media, such plants either failed to grow or exhibited weak and suppressed growth.
Researchers think that by engineering tougher new variants of CC proteins then plants will become hardier and able to overcome soils containing higher levels of salt.
Thus to overcome the impact of salt, genetic biologists are experimenting with producing plants that contain certain proteins that will allow a range of plants to grow better under conditions of salt stress.
The results are at the experimental stage. However, the implications of the research could lead to biologists breeding future generations of salt-tolerant crop plants. This will allow plants to be grown in areas of high salinity, considered unsuitable for growth, and to boots yields in areas where plants are at risk from salt induced stress factors.
The findings are published in the journal Cell. The research is titled “A Mechanism for Sustained Cellulose Synthesis during Salt Stress.”
More about plant stress, Stress, Plants, Salt, Saline
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