The stomata genes of agave and future improved drought-resistance capabilities.

Photo credit: Google

Agave plant


“If we can harness these genes and engineer new drought-resistant plants then the potential is huge in terms of developing crops and biofuels,” said researcher Anne Borland, professor of plant physiology at Newcastle University, UK

Agave genes could inspire new drought-resistant plants

by Hays B. (2016)

in UPI Science News 2016-12-06 –

Agave plants are found in arid regions in the American Southwest and Mexico. Scientists believe their genetic secrets can help researchers engineer drought-resistant crops. Photo by Newcastle University –


Scientists have identified genes key to the ability of the agave plant — the plant used to make tequila — to survive hot, dry conditions. The discovery could inspire the engineering of drought-resistant plants.

Unlike most plants, which keep their stomata open during the day, agave and other Crassulacean Acid Metabolism plants, or CAM plants, have reversed their molecular clocks and open their stomata at night. Stomata are the pores in plant leaves that control gas exchange.

“Photosynthesis needs three key ingredients — CO2, water and sunlight — so it follows that most plants keep their stomata open in the day when it is sunny and shut at night when it is dark,” Anne Borland, a professor of plant physiology at Newcastle University, said in a news release. “But for a plant living in hot, arid conditions such as the Agave, this would be disastrous. They need to conserve every drop of water they can and leaving their stomata open during the day would result in such rapid water loss they would simply die.”

In CAM plants, stomata-controlling genes are more active at night. The CO2 absorbed at night can be stored and used for photosynthesis during the day, without risking dehydration.

Read the full article: UPI


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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