Lending plants a hand to survive drought
"This basic scientific research has the potential to be able to improve farming productivity not just in Australia, but potentially in other countries that suffer from drought stress," Dr Pogson said.
"If we can even alleviate drought stress a little it would have a significant impact on our farmers and the economy."
Dr Pogson said the research found chloroplasts in cells surrounding the pores on leaves, called stomata, can sense drought stress and thereby activate a chemical signal that closes stomata to conserve water.
"This finding was completely unexpected and opens new avenues of inquiry into how chloroplasts can contribute to plant responses to the environment," Dr Pogson said.
"Boosting the levels of this chloroplast signal also restores tolerance in drought-sensitive plants and extended their drought survival by about 50 per cent," Dr Chan said.
"Dr Pornsiriwong, who has started her own research lab in Thailand, is currently investigating breeding strategies that naturally enhance levels of this drought tolerance-promoting chloroplast signal in rice," Dr Chan said.
The research was funded by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and was a collaboration between ANU, the University of Adelaide, University of Western Sydney, CSIRO, Kasertsart University (Thailand) and the University of California San Diego (United States).
The research has been published in eLIFE.
More information: Wannarat Pornsiriwong et al. A chloroplast retrograde signal, 3′-phosphoadenosine 5′-phosphate, acts as a secondary messenger in abscisic acid signaling in stomatal closure and germination, eLife (2017).