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Scientists Making Crops Drought Tolerant

Audio

Aired 10/23/09

Drought and global warming have inspired San Diego scientists to explore ways to increase drought tolerance in crops. Their research will be published in the journal Science.

— Drought and global warming have inspired San Diego scientists to explore ways to increase drought tolerance in crops. Their research will be published in the journal Science.

Plants become drought tolerant when they produce a hormone called abscisic acid. The hormone binds to receptor proteins in the plant, causing the plant to conserve water. Now scientists at UCSD and Scripps Research Institute have learned the way in which that molecular binding takes place. UCSD biology professor Julian Schroeder says this knowledge could allow scientists to genetically design crops to help them survive drought.

"One might be able to, in the future, redesign the receptor so it can be activated by a cheap and environmentally safe chemical," he said.

The chemical would mimic the hormone and then be sprayed on crops. Schroeder says in arid regions, like California, up to 90 percent of fresh water supplies are used for agriculture.

Audio

Aired 10/23/09

Drought and global warming have inspired San Diego scientists to explore ways to increase drought tolerance in crops. Their research will be published in the journal Science.

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