Emily Waltz interviews and publishes Dr. Yafan Huang, along with other industry leaders, in Waltz's News Feature in Nature Biotechnology, Beating the heat, Nature Biotechnology 32, 610–613 (2014) doi:10.1038/nbt.2948. Dr. Huang explains Performance Plants' technical focus and approach for drought tolerant crops.
Nature Biotechnology 32, 610–613 (2014) doi:10.1038/nbt.2948
Published online 08 July 2014 by the Nature Publishing Group, EMILY WALTZ combines both the progress of science and business in ag-biotechnology in Beating the heat, Nature Biotechnology's news feauture for the July 2014 issue.
Despite the complexity of drought tolerance, researchers are making progress in the search for crops that can produce seed with limited water. Emily Waltz reports | Nature Biotechnology.
"One of the best understood mechanisms of a plant’s adaptation to drought stress is the way in which the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) controls the opening and closing of the stomata. That is the mechanism on which Performance Plants in Kingston, Ontario, is focusing. Plants avoid potential damage from water shortage by the rapid biosynthesis of ABA, which triggers the guard cells surrounding the plant’s stomata to close and hold on to moisture. Plants do this naturally, but “you can sensitize those guard cells even more,” says Yafan Huang, chief scientific officer at Performance Plants."
Waltz outlines Performance Plants' approach which regulates plant guard cells, explaining the company use of native plant promoters to enhance the plants own natural defence mechanisms against drought stress. The author probes how this approach "gives the plant a chance to survive the drought by reducing transpirational water loss...". Dr. Huang adds how the plant can then return to "regular metabolism" when watered; i.e., rainfall. “We like this approach because it’s a reversible process,” (Huang) says. "Because the promoters are conditional, they are induced only during drought conditions, and when the drought is over, stomatal functions revert to normal."