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"Crop Climate Control" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A research team led by UC-Riverside has discovered a drought-protecting chemical that shows high potential for becoming a powerful tool for crop protection in the new world of extreme weather.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Benefit of the drought

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: prairie wind) Across the U.S., for the last couple of summers farmers have had to deal with temperature extremes and drought conditions. Many climate scientists suggest this could be the new normal. So a drought tolerance breakthrough from a team led by the University of California, Riverside is welcome news.

Plants that initially developed in regions with low water have systems that make them grow slowly, (Sound effect: sound of plant drinking up water) so they don't require more water than they can possibly get. But since farmers like fast-growing varieties, their crops didn't necessarily originate from drought-tolerant ancestors. So the hunt is on for chemicals farmers can use to give their crops a hand in the drought department.

Plant leaves have tiny pores that open and close--open to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, close to control the amount of water lost by evaporation--especially important during drought. This opening and closing is orchestrated by a plant hormone called A.B.A.

The team searched through thousands of molecules to identify a synthetic chemical that would mimic A.B.A. They found one, and named it "quinabactin"--A.B.A.'s virtual twin--yet simpler, easier and cheaper to make than A.B.A.

(Sound effect: farm sounds, tractor in BG) It's not ready to hit farmers' fields just yet, but it is a development that could ultimately improve crop yields around the world through improved drought-resistance. (Sound effect: single water droplet)

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