Sowing seed on salty ground

June 6, 2007

Scientists have discovered a gene that allows plants to grow better in low nutrient conditions and even enhance their growth through sodium uptake, according to a report published online this week in The EMBO Journal.

Salty soil caused by irrigation practices in arid regions has become a major agricultural problem – not only in India, China and African countries, but also around the Mediterranean and in dry regions of the USA, such as California. This is only expected to get worse in forthcoming years, as climate change leads to desertification.

Julian Schroeder and coworkers investigated a sodium transporter called OsHKT2;1 in the roots of rice plants. Their results provide evidence that this transporter has capabilities previously thought to exist but not genetically validated in plants before. Under salt stress, when sodium levels are too high, OsHKT2;1 transport is quickly shut off, protecting the plant from accumulating too much sodium before it can become toxic.

In addition, the authors found that sodium can also have beneficial effects under nutrient poor conditions. On soils where little nutritional potassium is available, a common problem after many years of agricultural production, plants can take up sodium through the OsHKT2;1 transporter to replace some of the functions of potassium and actually enhance growth. This improvement of our understanding of how plants regulate salt uptake in their roots may help to eventually find a solution to reducing the impact of soil salinity on agricultural productivity.

Source: European Molecular Biology Organization

Related Stories

Recommended for you

For faster battery charging, try a quantum battery?

August 3, 2015

(Phys.org)—Physicists have shown that a quantum battery—basically, a quantum system such as a qubit that stores energy in its quantum states—can theoretically be charged at a faster rate than conventional batteries. ...

Sundew discovery on Facebook makes plant science news

August 3, 2015

A new species of sundew has been discovered on Facebook. The find is a carnivorous sundew, Drosera magnifica. The new discovery comes from a single mountaintop in southeastern Brazil—the largest New World sundew.

Magnetism at nanoscale

August 3, 2015

As the demand grows for ever smaller, smarter electronics, so does the demand for understanding materials' behavior at ever smaller scales. Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory are building a unique ...

Caterpillar chemical turns ants into bodyguards

August 3, 2015

A trio of researchers with Kobe University in Japan has found that lycaenid butterfly caterpillars of the Japanese oakblue variety, have dorsal nectary organ secretions that cause ants that eat the material to abandon their ...

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.