With the recent drought in California, there is one plant that has been consistent in surviving the drought conditions: Sorghum. It is among some of the most drought-tolerant groups of plants in the world, and 12.3 million dollars of grant money went into researching why.
Currently, it is known that Sorghum can sense when it faces drought conditions and respond by using less water. For example, the wax of the cuticle will become thicker or their cells start to release less water. A genetic component to drought resistance has been connected.
|Sorghums are related to other grasses. |
Photo credit to Peggy Lemaux of UC Berkeley
Finding the genes that control drought tolerance would be a boon. Primarily because Sorghum seems to know when to switch the genes on and off, and the mechanism that controls it is still hypothesized with no evidence backing it. Researchers will grow two groups of sorghum, one under drought conditions, and the other in normal conditions to see if they can quantify and differences in the plants.
Learning how sorghums can conserve water can lead to new crop variants that will be more drought-tolerant. And if the world continues to warm, with harsher and less wet summers, the production of crops may be in peril. Anything that would aid farmers in keeping their yield up as the water table drops would be a boon.
Original Article: KVPR
Interested in Sorghum? It's genetic sequence was compared to other plants in 2009. You can read the findings here.