Australian researchers discover climate-smart wheat

Australian researchers discover climate-smart wheat

Canberra /Allahabad (ISJ) ? A team of Australian researchers have discovered that photosynthesis occurs in wheat seeds as in plant leaves. The new photosynthesis, as found by a team led by Prof. Robert Henry of Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation may help breed faster-growing wheat crops that are better adapted to hotter, drier climates.

The classic photosynthesis pathway is known as C3, and plants with the alternative photosynthesising chemistry came to be known as C4 plants, Professor Henry said.

?Like most plants, wheat photosynthesises through its leaves, but we?ve discovered there is also photosynthesis in the seed,? said Prof. Henry. ?This has never been known before, yet the wheat seed is quite green when you peel it off and it is the last part of the plant to die.?

?C4 plants capture carbon faster and have higher growth rates, particularly in subtropical and tropical environments,? he said. ?Our research characterised a previously unknown photosynthetic C4 pathway in the seeds of wheat ? which is not a C4 plant.?

?Wheat covers more of the earth than any other crop, so the ramifications of this discovery could be huge. It may lead to faster-growing, better-yielding wheat crops in geographical areas where wheat currently cannot be grown,? said Prof. Henry. He said his research was built on a biological discovery in the 1960s at the old Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Brisbane.

The research has far reaching consequence for tropical countries like India, said Dr. Chittaranjan Kole, Principal Coordinator with International Climate Resilient Crop Genomics Consortium (ICRCGC)

?The tropical and subtropical countries have a chronicle problem of higher temperature and drought. Most of the crop plants including the cereal crops such as rice and wheat have C3 mechanism of photosynthesis and they are sensitive to heat and drought stress. On the other hand the crops which have C4 photosynthesis can adapt to heat and drought,? Dr. Kole told Indian Science Journal. ?Wheat can be grown extensively now in heat-prone and drought prone areas. Besides, these C4 genes can be cloned and incorporated hopefully in the genomes of other crops, specifically cereals.?

Dr Kole said, with the effect of global warming and climate change looming large, climate-smart varieties of cereals discovered by Dr. Robert Henry could be the answer to future. ?So, cultivation of wheat and other cereals or any other crop can be grown in areas where they cannot be grown well now,? he added.

Prof. Henry, who said the discovery was quite unexpected, said, it may be important in growing food to meet future demand, especially when population of the world?s tropical region would soon exceed the rest of the world.

Image courtesy: University of Queensland

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