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Purdue Universtiy researchers have found a genetic mutation that allows a plant to better endure drought without losing biomass. The discovery could reduce the amount of water required for growing plants and help plants survive and thrive in adverse conditions.
Plants can naturally control the opening and closing of stomata — pores that take in carbon dioxide and release water. During drought conditions, a plant might close its stomata to conserve water.
By doing so, however, the plant also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide it can take in, which limits photosynthesis and growth.
Mike Mickelbart, an assistant professor of horticulture; Mike Hasegawa, a professor of horticulture; and Chal Yul Yoo, a horticulture graduate student, found that a genetic mutation in the research plant Arabidopsis thaliana reduces the number of stomata.
But instead of limiting carbon dioxide intake, the gene creates a beneficial equilibrium.
“The fewer stomata still allow for the same amount of carbon dioxide intake as a wild type while conserving water,” Mickelbart says. “This shows potential to reduce transpiration without yield penalty.”