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Synthetic chemical offers solution for crops facing drought
Date:4/30/2009

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Crops and other plants are constantly confronted with adverse environmental conditions, lowering yield and costing farmers billions of dollars annually. Plants use specialized signals, called stress hormones, to sense difficult times and adapt to stressful conditions to enhance survival.

Of the various stress hormones, abscisic acid (ABA), produced naturally by plants, has emerged over the last 30 years as the key hormone that helps plants cope with drought conditions. Under such stress, plants increase their ABA levels, which helps them survive the drought through a process not fully understood. So critical is this endogenous chemical to plant survival that researchers have engineered new drought-resistant crops by tinkering with the ABA pathway.

For years, scientists have contemplated spraying ABA directly onto crops to enhance their protection in times of stress. But ABA is a costly, complicated and light-sensitive molecule that has not found use in agriculture.

Now new research from the laboratory of Sean Cutler, an assistant professor of plant cell biology in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, suggests the possibility of spraying stable synthetic chemicals on plants to enhance stress tolerance during times of drought and improve yield.

Using a method called chemical genomics, pioneered by UC Riverside researchers for studying plant biology, Cutler identified pyrabactin, a new synthetic chemical that turns on the ABA signaling pathway in Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant used widely in plant biology laboratories as a model organism.

His lab then used pyrabactin to fish out a receptor for ABA a highly controversial topic involving retractions of scientific papers as well as the publication of papers of questionabl
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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