Preemptive acclimation to drought in plants

Summary

Long-term water availability shapes natural vegetation in vast regions of Earth. At the same time there is room for improvement of yield of crops per unit of water used. Availability of soil water and demand for transpiration vary widely within and between years. Global change will make climate drier and with more frequent extreme events in vast regions of our planet. Plasticity, the ability of plants to dynamically adjust their physiology, morphology and development to prevailing conditions is an important determinant of yield in crops and a trait important for wild plant species. Acclimation in plants usually depends on acquisition of information from their environment. To be useful, acclimation must take place in advance of drought and soil water complete depletion. We aim at elucidating the role of solar ultraviolet radiation and blue light in triggering drought acclimation in advance of drought events. Practical applications can be easily envisaged in breeding and management of both field- and horticultural crops.

Team

  • Pedro J. Aphalo, PhD, Docent (project leader, University of Helsinki)
  • Tarja Lehto, PhD, Docent (University Researcher at University of Eastern Finland)
  • Luis O. Morales, PhD (Noth Carolina State University)
  • Victor O. Sadras (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Frederick Stoddard, PhD, Docent (University of Helsinki)
  • Neha Rai, MSc (PhD student, DPPS, University of Helsinki)
  • Yan Yan, MSc (PhD student, DPPS, University of Helsinki)

Colaborators

  • Mikael Brosché, PhD, Docent (University of Helsinki)
  • Gareth Jenkins, Prof (Glasgow University=
  • Otmar Urban, PhD (CzechGlobe)
  • Susanne Neugart, PhD (Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops)
  • Andreas Albert, PhD (Helmholz Centre München)
  • Barbro Winkler, PhD (Helmholz Centre München)
  • Anders Lindfors, Prof. (Finnish Meteorological Institute)
  • Ariel Novoplansky, Prof. ()

Site of research

Main site: Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Other sites: Research Unit Environmental Simulation, EUS, Helmholz Centre München, Germany. Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops, Berlin, Germany. CzechGlobe, Brno, Czech Republic.

Scientific abstract

Long-term water availability shapes natural vegetation in vast regions of Earth. At the same time there is ample room for improvement in water use efficiency of main field crops. Availability of soil water and demand for transpiration vary widely within and between years. In addition, global change will modify the norm in vast regions of our planet towards drier and more variable climate, endangering global food security. Plasticity, the ability of plants to acclimate or dynamically adjust their physiology, morphology and development to prevailing conditions is an important determinant of yield and its stability in field crops and a trait under natural selection in wild plant species. Acclimation in plants usually depends on acquisition of information from their environment, frequently using substitute sources of information. To be useful, acclimation must be preemptive, i.e. take place in advance. In the case of drought the sources of information for preemptive acclimation are yet to be identified. Drought stress is in the real world very frequently preceded by clear sky conditions and strong solar radiation. The research within this project aims at testing the following hypotheses: 1) Perception of solar ultraviolet radiation through the photoreceptors UVR8s and/or CRYs triggers preemptive acclimation enhancing tolerance of drying soil and high evaporation demand, 2) plant accessions collected from localities with different drought prevalence will differ in the mechanisms contributing to dry-soil and high high-evaporation-demand tolerance triggered by solar radiation cues, 3) plant accessions from localities subjected to different background UV exposures will differ in their response to radiation cues, 4) maternal effects altering responses to solar radiation may contribute to enhanced drought tolerance of the offspring of mother plants exposed to solar UV. Methods to be used include: genomics, metabolomics, photomics and phenomics in plants grown in real or simulated sunlight. Contrasting accessions and photoreceptor mutants will be used as tools, and new mutants produced. Burr medic and fava beans will be the main species under study. Improved understanding of preemptive acclimation will benefit crop breeding and management, improve our understanding of mechanisms determining the geographical distribution of plant species, and contribute to a more accurate prediction of the effects of climate change.

Status and funding

Project is in course, at a slow pace waiting for pending funding decisions.

Publications