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Climate Change and Heat: Preventing Crop Stress

Aug 20, 2015 04:20 PM EDT
Rice plants lead the way to managing plant growth and development in extreme conditions.
Studying rice plants led researchers at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont to develop management strategies to combat the decline of plant growth and development under extreme conditions, such as hot night temperatures.
(Photo : Photo Courtesy of Dr. Abdul Razack Mohammed, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont)

Dr. Lee Tarpley studies rice plants in an attempt to find a way for plants to thrive in the heat or other stressful conditions.

Since rice plants produce lower quality and quantities of rice under stressful environmental conditions, Dr. Tarpley, a plant physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Beaumont, is currently studying what extremes affect these plants, so to get to the root of the problem.

"We tend to view these environmental stresses as necessary evils -- especially temperature stresses -- as if there is little we can do to counter the effect," he said in a statement. "We're finding that we can use specific knowledge of how the stress affects the plant to design prevention measures."

Tarpley, along with Dr. Abdul Razack Mohammed, AgriLife Research assistant scientist, presented their findings at a recent conference focused on rice production, explaining that in order to determine what conditions affect these rice plants, they have studied their reaction to both hot and cold environments, submergence, salinity, wind and drought.

According to the release, they observed that one of the specific impacts is high nighttime temperatures. "High night temperatures do two things to rice plants," Tarpley said in the statement. "The rice plant increases its production of a plant stress hormone, and an oxidative-stress response occurs, which injures the plant. Both of these ultimately lead to losses in yield and quality."

As a result of this finding, they were able to determine potential management strategies. "We can spray the crop with a chemical that prevents the stress hormone activity, so that the plant never senses that it is supposed to be in stress," Tarpley explained in the release. "Or we can spray the plants with a sort of vaccination, which is like a small dose of 'oxidative stress.' That triggers the plant to build its capacity to be acclimated to future stresses."

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