The researcher hopes to end global hunger by defining the molecular ‘language’ of plants.

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As a child spending time on her ancestors ’rice farming in the Philippines, Shelley Lumba grew to understand the benefits of the Green Revolution – a time in the 1950s and 60s that took hold. and many technological advances in agriculture.

“My grandparents told me stories about not having enough rice to feed our family, there was less to sell in the market,” he said. “And the Philippines is facing the same problem – not enough rice to feed the country’s population.

Then, Lumba’s ancestors began to cultivate a variety of rice – one of the new varieties of cereals developed that was harder, more nutritious and produced higher yields. Thanks to the hybrid, Lumba’s ancestors were able to feed their family and have rice to sell.

Today, Lumba is an assistant professor in the department of cell and system biology (CSB) of the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Arts & Science. He believes his research will lead to progress in agriculture similar to what was done during the Green Revolution and help end hunger, poverty and climate change.

Lumba and his colleagues are learning how living things – even those from very different kingdoms – communicate on a molecular level through the “language of life.” For example, plants signal changes in the soil by releasing hormones called strigolactones (SLs). These hormones “come in” to arouse the nerve to bind to the plant, thus forming a symbiotic relationship where the hormones give phosphates to their partner and, in return, get the nerve. kalapona.

“This symbiosis is everywhere,” Lumba said. “If you’re a garden, you know what kind of clean soil is like sand, but the soil from your planted pots is hard to ‘stuff.’ Each of the different organisms and bacteria that help your plant grow. “

SLs and other plant hormones such as gibberrellins stimulate germination if conditions are good – for example, if there is enough water and nutrients in the soil.

Lumba’s goal is to understand how living things transmit these signals and, when received, how those signals are translated into response. It is hoped that research will lead to new ways of fighting the disease caused by the parasitic Striga hermonthica, called witchweed.

Witchweed – which means “vampire violet” for its glittering flowers – is considered by the United Nations to be an important factor in reducing poverty in Africa. The parasite infects large cereal crops such as maile, sorghum, millet, sweetcorn and rice, trapping their roots and draining large amounts of water and nutrients.

Witchweed is very hardy because a single plant can produce 100,000 seeds. There are so few types of soil that a square meter area of ​​soil can hold thousands. In addition, the parasite begins to damage crops before it grows on the land – that is, before farmers know their crops will be attacked.

Witchweed can lead to huge losses and can sometimes wipe out entire collections. Damage to agriculture in Africa caused by the plant is estimated at about US $ 9 billion annually, with infestations affecting the lives of 100 million people in 25 countries. .

Like parasitic organisms, witchweed needs to be a host in order to survive and so the seeds have grown that can lie dormant in the soil for many years until they are seen to be near. something is dead. At that point, the seeds grow and attach to a host.






Available: University of Toronto

Attempts have been made to fight this disease. Researchers are trying to develop cereal-resistant witchweed varieties. There have been some experiments where non -cultivated gardens with SLs would initiate a “murder attack” in the seeds in the soil, but SLs were prohibited from doing so.

Progress has been slow in part because the problem is in underdeveloped countries and because there are not enough solutions to the industries that can develop them.

Another challenge is that experimenting with witchweed in a lab can be a daunting task. Because it is a parasite, there are strict rules, permissions and protocols that need to be developed. Also, because it requires a host to survive, there is the added difficulty of explaining what is going on with the parasite and what is going on with the host. Lastly, researchers are unable to control witchweed genes – a common tool of any research.

But a major breakthrough outside of Lumba’s work revolved around the problems associated with witchweed testing.

The fruits of Arabidopsis thaliana – a member of the family that includes mustard and cabbage – remain dormant due to proteins that inhibit germination in the absence of water and heat. When conditions are right, Arabidopsis seeds release the hormone gibberellins which break down germination inhibitors.

As explained in a previous paper on And Natura Plants, Lumba and his colleagues found a way to introduce SL germs from witchweed to Arabidopsis, thereby avoiding the demands of gibberellins to normally start germination. As a result, a strain of Arabidopsis responds to SLs similar to witchweed, and then acts as a suitable model plant for their experiment.

Understanding how the seed responds to SLs at a molecular level, Lumba’s research could lead to different strategies to fight the parasite. For example, it can lead to the synthesis of molecules that stimulate killer germination, but is much simpler and easier to process than SLs.

It also removes the possibility of other mechanisms such as the development of molecules to block the entire germination process – even in the presence of SLs from a host.

“My hope is that the ‘bench-to-field’ period won’t be too long,” Lumba said, “and that new developments in relation to this will be coming soon.”

In addition to their research on witchweed, Lumba and his colleagues are researching another question with global ramifications: Why and how do fungi respond to SLs? Eight percent of plants rely on this symbiotic relationship and improving interactions with positive nutrients can lead to more complex plants and reduce the usefulness of plants, so be careful. reducing the flow of phosphate into water systems and lowering the production of global warming gases.

What’s more, he can grow crops, benefits that Lumba experienced in his childhood.

“I learned from my family how important farming is,” he said. “The impact of research like this is significant and can improve the lives of many people. It’s about good soil for a healthy world.”


Witchweed – destruction by nature


More information:
Michael Bunsick et al, that stimulation of SMAX1 -related products suppresses GA signaling in Arabidopsis and Striga, And Natura Plants (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41477-020-0653-z

Presented by the University of Toronto

Directions: Researcher hopes to end global hunger by explaining the molecular ‘language’ of plants (2022, March 29) Retrieved 29 March 2022 from https://phys.org/news /2022-03-aims-alleviate-global-hunger-deciphering .html

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