Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spraying heat tolerance on plants

Sou | 4:03 PM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

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)


  1. Interesting -- though one assumes there's a reason that plants don't turn on their heat resistance all the time.

    1. The reason plants do not have this mechanism turned on all the time is that it takes resources and or energy from growth and reproduction.
      There are some plants that produce a sugar called Trehalose that completely protects them against dessication and freezing. This sugar has the property that it mimics water even when solid and protects proteins, DNA RNA etc . It does this by not crystallising but forming a solid 'glass' on drying which encapsulates the delicate molecules so they do not denaturate. Other simple sugars can do this but they are not as good as mimicking the polar properties of water ie Hydrogen bonds.
      By just adding water these plants immediately come to life. The Manna of Biblical fame is also is high in Trehalose.
      There are other organisms that use Trehalose. From single celled to the small desert crustaceans that seem to appear out of nowhere after rain even if it has been dry for many years. Remember Sea Monkeys?
      There is a small frog in Canada about 20mm in size that can remain frozen all winter well below freezing and comes back to life in spring. It is ice crystals that destroy cell membranes. Trehalose inhibits ice crystal growth. A cricket in the Himalayas freezes every night and thaws out in the morning.
      Trehalose will not help to freeze your body . Mammalian cell membranes will not let it through. Unfortunately when your are frozen all your cell membranes are ruptured by ice crystals. Try freezing a lettuce leaf and then thawing it out. Bert


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