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Could future crops adapt to climate conditions?

(21 December 2018)

A better understanding of how plant roots develop could open up the possibility of breeding new crops that are more adaptive to climate change, and in turn help with food security in the future.

Researchers looking at the fundamental processes of plant development have identified a particular protein which controls how plant roots grow and adapt to soil conditions.

Plant proteins that control root branching

They found that this protein can stop roots developing in certain conditions, such as water or nutrient shortage, limiting the plants’ growth.

Understanding this process could enable plants to be developed that can continue to branch roots even in challenging conditions like drought.

In particular this could help develop food crops which are more adaptive to climate change, helping deliver global food security into the future.

Food security

Food security is a pressing global issue. It is estimated that crop production will need to double by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth.

The impacts of climate change, in particular water availability, represent a huge challenge to this target. In addition, there is a need to reduce fertilizer use, to make agriculture more environmentally sustainable.

The opportunity to develop crops with improved water and nutrient uptake is an exciting possibility.

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