Much like humans, plants require air, water and nutrients to grow and thrive. This poses a serious problem for countries in the grip of a crippling drought. Moreover, with the rainfall amount and duration dwindling annually, more nations are facing the challenge of growing crops with less water.
Biotech start-up PlantArcBio might just have the answer to the dilemma. This Israeli company believes that drought-resistance genes extracted from samples in the arid soil around Israel’s famous Dead Sea area can be employed to make some of the world’s staple crops more resistant to drought. The result? A higher crop yield with less water.
PlantArcBio’s approach is simple. It starts with collecting soil and water samples from the Dead Sea region and testing them for genes that are found solely in deserts. Once the particular genes have been identified, they are isolated and inserted into target plants using specialized agro-bacteria.
“We don’t have to know in advance what genes we have inside the sample,” PlantArcBio’s founder and CEO Dror Shalitin told Israel21c. “We just make the assumption that there will be genes that help micro-organisms survive in an area that suffers from drought.”
The genetically engineered plants are then placed in a greenhouse where temperatures and conditions are closely monitored to resemble an arid region. Those plants that survive in all likelihood contain the desired gene. “Helpful” genes are then put through a second round of tests, before they are tried on staple crops like soybeans, corn and rapeseed, Israel21c reports.
Results on model plants in the greenhouses have been excellent. “The plants with the best genes showed an improvement of 10 to 15 percent” in terms of drought-resistance, Shalitin explains.
If all goes according to plan, this start-up from Israel may very well circumvent the challenge of an ample supply of water required to grow crops and will thus help drought-stricken nations feed their people.
Source: Ilse Strauss, Bridges for Peace
Photo Credit: www.plantarcbio.com
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