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Apr 5, 2012

UCLA Researchers Discover How To Predict Drought Tolerance in Plants

On 5 April 2012 UCLA scientists announced that they had discovered how to predict which plants will survive a drought.  The research team was led by Lewis Sack, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.  Research focused on the "turgor loss point" trait that already known to be associated with drought tolerance.  The UCLA team discovered that plants with lower turgor loss points could maintain their turgor - pressure exerted outward on plant cell wall by the cell's contents.  Maintenance of turgor was the key to survival in dry soils caused by drought.

Cell saltiness was also a factor in determining drought tolerance. Cell saltiness in plant leaves determines where plants live and what kinds of plants dominate ecosystems around the world. As part of the research that led to this discovery, the UCLA team collected drought-tolerance trait data from around the world. This confirmed their conclusion on the relationship between turgor loss points and cell saltiness. "Across species within geographic areas and across the globe, drought tolerance was correlated with the saltiness of the cell sap and not with the stiffness of cell walls. In fact, species with stiff cell walls were found not only in arid zones but also in wet systems like rainforests, because here too, evolution favors long-lived leaves protected from damage."

The UCLA research will collaborate in the future with Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in Yunnan, China. Together they are developing a "new method for rapidly measuring turgor loss point across a large number of species and make possible the critical assessment of drought tolerance for thousands of species for the first time."

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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