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Researchers uncover ’genetic goldmine’ underlying plant resilience in extreme desert environment

Phys.org/news (NOVEMBER 1, 2021)

Titre : Researchers uncover ’genetic goldmine’ underlying plant resilience in extreme desert environment

An international team of researchers has identified genes associated with plant survival in one of the harshest environments on Earth : the Atacama Desert in Chile. Their findings may help scientists breed resilient crops that can thrive in increasingly drier climates.

Phys.org/news (NOVEMBER 1, 2021)

Présentation
The study was an international collaboration among botanists, microbiologists, ecologists, evolutionary and genomic scientists. This unique combination of expertise enabled the team to identify the plants, associated microbes, and genes that enable the Atacama plants to adapt to and flourish in extreme desert conditions, which could ultimately help to enhance crop growth and reduce food insecurity.

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains, is the driest place on the planet (excluding the poles). Yet dozens of plants grow there, including grasses, annuals, and perennial shrubs. In addition to limited water, plants in the Atacama must cope with high altitude, low availability of nutrients in the soil, and extremely high radiation from sunlight.

The Chilean research team established an unparalleled "natural laboratory" in the Atacama Desert over a 10-year period, in which they collected and characterized the climate, soil, and plants at 22 sites in different vegetational areas and elevations (every 100 meters of altitude) along the Talabre-Lejía Transect. Measuring a variety of factors, they recorded temperatures that fluctuated more than 50 degrees from day to night, very high radiation levels, soil that was largely sand and lacked nutrients, and minimal rain, with most annual rain falling over a few days.

Source  : New York University

Annonce (Phys.org/news)

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