Food security in the future is a major concern - with populations rising and the yield of many crops likely to fall as climate change worsens. Plant scientists are looking for ways to make plants more tolerant of heat.
I spotted this today at ScienceDaily.com. By spraying plants with a chemical derived from plants themselves, croppers will be able to induce better heat tolerance in their crops. This is a good thing. What happens is the sprayed chemical acts like a switch, turning on the innate heat tolerance of crops.
Research group at the Kobe University Graduate School of Agricultural Science Functional Phytochemistry Laboratory has identified for the first time that the (E)-2-hexenal, a plant-derived chemical substance, can induce a plant's stress response to high temperatures. Members of the research group are: Assistant Professor YAMAUCHI Yasuo, Graduate Student Ms. KUNISHIMA Mikiko, Associate Professor MIZUTANI Masaharu, and Professor SUGIMOTO Yukihiro.
Plants essentially have a high-temperature resistance function. It is switched off during normal conditions. However, it is switched on during periods of high temperature. The study started out by hypothesizing that if the signal chemicals in plants that switchs the function on could be identified, then plants' stress response to high temperature could be artificially controlled.
It is known that some plants' high-temperature resistance function is also switched on when oxidative treatment is applied. The study group assumed that a chemical compound, generated through oxidation of fatty acids in plants by reactive oxygen, triggers the switch. Through their experiments, the group has identified that the (E)-2-hexenal is the compound that acts as a signal chemical.
Acquired thermotolerance in plants in a non-genetically modified way. It will be easier for this method to find acceptance in Japan where consumers are less accepting of genetically-modified crops.
Since the (E)-2-hexenal is a plant-derived chemical substance, its use as a spray over farm produce will face little resistance from consumers.
The effects of the (E)-2-hexenal were examined at cooperative farms and confirmed including the effects on rice, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
A patent for the work was issued in September, 2014.
(Excuse the copies and pastes, please. I'm pressed for time over the next day or so. )
Yasuo Yamauchi, Mikiko Kunishima, Masaharu Mizutani, Yukihiro Sugimoto. Reactive short-chain leaf volatiles act as powerful inducers of abiotic stress-related gene expression. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 8030 DOI: 10.1038/srep08030 (open access)