'Resurrection plants' offer hope as climate turns hostile

November 22, 2015 by Stephanie Findlay
Jill Farrant, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town, hopes that unlocking the genetic codes o
Jill Farrant, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town, hopes that unlocking the genetic codes of drought-tolerant plants could help farmers toiling in increasingly hot and dry conditions

As the race to adapt to climate change quickens, a South African scientist is leading global research into developing crops that mimic the extraordinary survival skills of "resurrection plants".

Jill Farrant, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town, hopes that unlocking the genetic codes of drought-tolerant plants could help farmers toiling in increasingly hot and dry conditions.

With more than 130 known varieties in the world, resurrection plants are a unique group of flora that can survive extreme water shortages for years.

During a drought, the plant acts like a seed, becoming so dry it appears dead.

But when the skies finally open and the rain pours down, the shrivelled plant bursts "back to life", turning green and robust in just a few hours.

"I want to cater to the subsistence farmer, the person who wants to make enough food to live," Farrant, 55, told AFP.

"Farmers are becoming more and more dispirited, and droughts are killing them."

Perhaps the most well-known resurrection plant is Myrothamnus flabellifolius, which makes antioxidant chemicals to protect it during dry spells and is used in fashion designer Giorgio Armani's cosmetics line.

A life passion

A farmer's daughter, Farrant recalls stumbling across a resurrection plant as a nine-year-old and being amazed at its seemingly immortal properties.

"I wrote in my diary about a plant that had died and came back after the rain," she said.

She returned to the subject professionally in 1994, and has since become the world's leading expert in her field.

South African scientist Jill Farrant recalls stumbling across a resurrection plant as a nine-year-old and being amazed at its se
South African scientist Jill Farrant recalls stumbling across a resurrection plant as a nine-year-old and being amazed at its seemingly immortal properties

Environmentalists fear that more and more of Africa will be reduced to a dust bowl by global warming, with higher temperatures, reduced water supplies and population growth threatening to trigger worsening famines.

Climate change could reduce maize yields across southern Africa by as much as 30 percent by 2030, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Ahead of the United Nations conference in Paris at the end of November, countries are facing growing pressure to keep below two degrees celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels by weaning their carbon-hungry societies off fossil fuels.

But, scientists say it is just as important to adapt to the new reality.

"Soil, cropping systems, farming systems—they all must have the capacity to recover from a drastic change in climate," said Rattan Lal, professor of soil science at Ohio State University.

"We should make agriculture part of the solution to our issues... the climate change problem is so huge everything should be on the table."

If successful, Farrant will follow in the venerable footsteps of earlier scientists who have saved crops from devastation by exploiting plants with specific strengths.

In the 1970s, US maize was rescued from southern leaf blight disease by incorporating resistant genes found in other varieties of maize.

Adapt to survive

South African scientist Jill Farrant has recently focused her research on teff, a grass native to Ethiopia whose seed has been u
South African scientist Jill Farrant has recently focused her research on teff, a grass native to Ethiopia whose seed has been used as a stable food in the region for centuries

Farrant has recently focused her research on teff, a grass native to Ethiopia whose seed has been used as a stable food in the region for centuries.

She hopes to make it more resilient by activating genes she discovered by studying resurrection plants.

"My main aim all along is to make crops that can improve drought tolerance," Farrant told AFP.

"If we get the money, I would say in 10 to 15 years we've got a product."

Experts warn that drought-tolerant crops are not a one-stop solution to the world's climate problems or even a safeguard against hunger.

"Food security doesn't only depend on climate, it depends on markets and trade, prices and access by households to food," said Jim Verdin, a drought scientist with the US Geological Survey based in Boulder, Colorado.

Still, Farrant—who won a UNESCO Awards for Women in Science in 2012—believes her work is a step in the right direction.

If she can harness the power of resurrection plants, farmers themselves may have a better chance of survival.

"If it doesn't rain, it doesn't matter, at least your plants won't die," she said. "The moment they get rain, they're ready to go."

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BartV
1 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2015
As the race to adapt to climate change quickens....


Starting out a scientific article with a statement that is unproven at best is rather startling.
I don't see any race to adapt, especially one that is quickening pace.
Maybe the writer wants to see it that way.

But please, back up your statements with some proof. Otherwise please leave out such misleading statements.

Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (4) Nov 22, 2015
Starting out a scientific article with a statement that is unproven at best is rather startling.
It is physorg click-bait and an eggcorn, but not a scientific article.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2015
It is pertinent and timely. It is just not very technical.
HeloMenelo
3.8 / 5 (10) Nov 22, 2015
As the race to adapt to climate change quickens....


Starting out a scientific article with a statement that is unproven at best is rather startling.
I don't see any race to adapt, especially one that is quickening pace......

But please, back up your statements with some proof. Otherwise please leave out such misleading statements.



Proof ? son you need to learn to read, perhaps then you can read through the mountains of emperical evidence presented over years and years of science...

Startling for a denier that fails to understand science, the rest of the world knows better and knows that climate change is real thanks to Real Scientific Data that a select few ie bartv and his sock clowns, waterclown, antisciencegorilla, shoot the potty donglish et al.. cannot comprehend, which is really easy to understand as the evidence is self explanatory, so that does say a lot about those who don't understand real science.
tblakely1357
1 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2015
"Proof ? son you need to learn to read, perhaps then you can read through the mountains of emperical evidence presented over years and years of science..."

What proof? Pretty much every single prediction over the past twenty years involving Global Warming has been false. If a theory repeatedly fails it's predictions, is it really science or a scam? Remember, by now there should be no polar ice caps and our coastlines should be under several feet of water.

Drought, floods, heat waves, cold snaps, increased storms, decreased storms, extinctions.... is there anything that Global Warming can't do?
Mike_Massen
3.5 / 5 (11) Nov 22, 2015
tblakely1357 claims
What proof? Pretty much every single prediction over the past twenty years involving Global Warming has been false
Doh, don't arbitrarily follow politicians !

tblakely1357 claims
If a theory repeatedly fails it's predictions, is it really science or a scam?
Physics of AGW is based soundly irrefutably on:-
https://en.wikipe...transfer
leads to
https://en.wikipe..._forcing
relevant spectra
http://cbc.arizon.../sim/gh/

tblakely1357 says
Remember, by now there should be no polar ice caps and our coastlines should be under several feet of water
You write of media alarmists & politicians

tblakely1357 says
..is there anything that Global Warming can't do?
Doh, an't get you essential education in Physics OR the sense necessary to distinguish politicians from credible climate scientists...

Education is so important, you get immune to idle propaganda.

Learn Physics, please !
Mike_Massen
3.4 / 5 (10) Nov 22, 2015
BartV claims
Starting out a scientific article with a statement that is unproven at best is rather startling
Which statement - is it based on Science or mere claim, can you tell evidence from claim ?

BartV misses education in biology
I don't see any race to adapt, especially one that is quickening pace
Unfortunately you need exposure to evidence AND essential education to recognise & understand it.

Eg. Some food plants shift their biochem equilibria to produce more cyanogens as CO2 rises, this makes them poisonous, already happening re Cassava, similarly re Clover - a crop for cattle, capisce' ?

BartV asks
But please, back up your statements with some proof..
Proof, Very good !

Tell us about your so called intelligent creator please & why it makes all suffer for ever, does it communicate equally well to all in truly god like way or the same as lazy arbitrarily proselytizing humans dependent upon random advances in technology over long periods ?
snoosebaum
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2015
i see GW is hitting central USA right now
SteveS
5 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2015
i see GW is hitting central USA right now

If by GW you mean global climate change why are you talking about regional weather?
HeloMenelo
3 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2015
"Proof ? son you need to learn to read, perhaps then you can read through the mountains of emperical evidence presented over years and years of science..."

What proof? Pretty much every single prediction over the past twenty years involving Global Warming has been false. If a theory repeatedly fails it's predictions, is it really science or a scam? Remember, by now there should be no polar ice caps and our coastlines should be under several feet of water.

Drought, floods, heat waves, cold snaps, increased storms, decreased storms, extinctions.... is there anything that Global Warming can't do?


i was going to say something but Mike rubbed it in really hard for you wrt to my reply.. sorry you asked for it ;) o.. and btw, using another nick does not make you someone else, it's still you and your sockpuppets ;)

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