Relief for parched plants

Heat and drought are wreaking havoc on the world's crops, but scientists are engineering plants that may be able to survive such harsh conditions

Carrie Arnold
Oct 13, 2010
Blazing heat and drought across Russia have withered much of the country's wheat crop, triggering a dramatic rise in food prices worldwide. But what if plants could survive long periods without water?
Image: Domesticated barley (Hordeum vulgare)
Wikimedia commons,
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Groups of scientists around the world are working on engineering crops that can do just that. And with temperatures and drought frequency expected to continue to climb, and an increasing demand on dwindling fresh water supplies, the linkurl:need for drought-resistant plants;http://www.the-scientist.com/2009/09/1/30/1/ is more pressing than ever. "The number one limiting factor on [crop] yield in the world is available water," said Mark Lawson, an agricultural scientist at linkurl:Monsanto,;http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx in St. Louis, Mo. And in many countries around the world, "drought is essentially an annual occurrence." But scientists are looking for ways to tweak plant physiology to enable crops to feed the world using significantly less water. Many research...
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