New tools to breed 'anti-flood' cereal crops

 In a significant find, scientists have identified the mechanism used by plants in stress conditions to sense low oxygen levels that may lead to the introduction of cereal crops better able to tolerate flooding.

London: In a significant find, scientists have identified the mechanism used by plants in stress conditions to sense low oxygen levels that may lead to the introduction of cereal crops better able to tolerate flooding.

The advanced breeding techniques have been used to reduce yield loss in barley in water-logged conditions.

"We now know how to breed barley cultivars more tolerant to waterlogging and flooding," said Michael Holdsworth, professor of crop science in University of Nottingham.

Earlier, Michael Holdsworth and colleagues had identified the mechanism used by plants in stress conditions to sense low oxygen levels.

Now, they have discovered how this works in barley.

"Barley cultivars with the capability to withstand waterlogging have excellent growth, superior yields, retain their green appearance due to chlorophyll retention and have a more efficient metabolism even in low oxygen conditions," Holdsworth noted.

Barley is comparatively more susceptible to waterlogging than other cereals.

Farmers across the globe are falling victim to the increasing frequency of catastrophic floods.

Plants starved of oxygen cannot survive flooding for long periods of time.

Persistent flooding and saturated arable land can wipe out crops and reduce harvests so the search for flood tolerant crops is a key target for global food security.

Average yields can be reduced by up to 50 percent as a result of waterlogging. Resistance to this stress is an important objective of breeding efforts in high-rainfall areas of the world.

"We now have the strategy developed for plant breeding to select for enhanced tolerance to waterlogging in barley and other crops," Holdsworth said.

The study appeared in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

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