Washington: Plants which experience drought learn to handle them better the next time, thanks to their memories of the event.
The new research also confirms the scientific basis for what home gardeners and nursery professionals have often learned through hard experience: Transplants do better when water is withheld for a few days to drought harden them before the move.
"This phenomenon of drought hardening is in the common literature but not really in the academic literature," said Michael Fromm, plant scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, member of the research team.
"The mechanisms involved in this process seem to be what we found," added Fromm, the journal Nature Communications reports.
Working with Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family considered an excellent model for plant research, Fromm's team, plant molecular biologist Zoya Avramova and post-doctoral fellow Yong Ding compared the reaction of plants that had been previously stressed by withholding water to those not previously stressed.
The pre-stressed plants bounced back more quickly the next time they were dehydrated. Specifically, the non-trained plants wilted faster than trained plants and their leaves lost water at a faster rate than trained plants, according to a Nebraska statement.
"The plants 'remember' dehydration stress. It will condition them to survive future drought stress and transplanting," Fromm said.
First Published: Friday, March 16, 2012, 19:06