Grass stomata and climate change

 

Photo credit: Manila Bulletin

Wheat and other edible grasses have developed pores that make them more drought tolerant. Stanford scientists have studied these pores with an eye toward future climate change. (Image credit: magdasmith / Getty Images) | credit Stanford University | Manila Bulletin

Grass stomata seen as possible lead to crops better surviving climate change

By Philippine News Agency

The increased efficiency of grass stomata, as confirmed in a new study, may lead to crops that can better survive climate change.

Wheat and other edible grasses have developed pores that make them more drought tolerant. Stanford scientists have studied these pores with an eye toward future climate change. (Image credit: magdasmith / Getty Images) | credit Stanford University | Manila Bulletin

Stomata, the holes in the leaves of land-based plants through which they take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and let out oxygen and water vapor, have remained largely unchanged in the 400 million years since plants colonized the land, according to a resarch paper published in the March 17 issue of the journal Science.

One major exception is grasses, which are better able to withstand drought or high temperatures in large part due to changes in their stomata.

Stomata usually have two so-called “guard cells” with a hole in the middle that opens and closes depending on how a plant needs to balance its gas exchange. If a plant needs more CO2 or wants to cool by releasing water vapor, the stomata open. If it needs to conserve water, they stay closed.

Grasses, which include wheat, corn and rice and make up about 60 percent of the calories people consume worldwide, improved on the original structure by recruiting two extra cells on either side of the guard cells, allowing for a little extra give when the stoma opens. They also respond more rapidly and sensitively to changes in light, temperature or humidity that happen during the day.

The different stomata may have helped grasses spread during a prehistoric period of increased global dryness.

Scientists have assumed grasses’ unusual stomata make these plants more efficient “breathers.” But, spurred by curiosity and a passion for developmental biology, researchers at Stanford University decided to test that theory.

The researchers of the study said they found a mutant of the wheat relative Brachypodium distachyon that had two-celled stomata, compared the stomata from the mutant to the normal four-celled stomata, and confirmed that the four-celled version opens wider and faster.

In addition, they identified which gene creates the four-celled stomata.

Read the full story: Manila Bulletin

Advertisements

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s