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Breakthrough in the production of flood-tolerant crops
Date:10/23/2011

This week thousands of families lost their homes and crops as flood waters swept across Central America. In Thailand huge tracts of farmland were submerged as the country faced its worst flooding in 50 years. Across the globe agricultural production is at risk as catastrophic flooding becomes a world-wide problem.

Prolonged flooding drastically reduces yields by cutting off the supply of oxygen crops need to survive. Now experts at The University of Nottingham, working in collaboration with the University of California, Riverside, have identified the molecular mechanism plants use to sense low oxygen levels. The discovery could lead, eventually, to the production of high-yielding, flood-tolerant crops, benefiting farmers, markets and consumers across the globe.

The mechanism controls key proteins in plants causing them to be unstable when oxygen levels are normal. When roots or shoots are flooded and oxygen levels drop these proteins become stable. The research is published on Sunday October 23 in the prestigious journal Nature.

Michael Holdsworth, Professor of Crop Science in the School of Biosciences at Nottingham said: "We have identified the mechanism through which reduced oxygen levels are sensed. The mechanism controls key regulatory proteins called transcription factors that can turn other genes on and off. It is the unusual structure of these proteins that destines them for destruction under normal oxygen levels, but when oxygen levels decline, they become stable. Their stability results in changes in gene expression and metabolism that enhance survival in the low oxygen conditions brought on by flooding. When the plants return to normal oxygen levels, the proteins are again degraded, providing a feedback control mechanism".

As Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Australia, the UK and America have all fallen victim to catastrophic flooding in recent years tolerance of crops to partial or complete submergence i
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk
44-115-951-5751
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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