Home News Heat is bad for plant health. Here’s how gene editing could help.

Heat is bad for plant health. Here’s how gene editing could help.


Nonetheless, many related crop species are associated with Arabidopsis, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts. And because the salicylate pathway is present in many different species of plants, including major crops such as wheat, corn, and potatoes, the work could have implications far beyond the lab.

In some follow-up experiments, the Duke team worked to replicate their results in canola plants, many of which are used to make canola oil. The results are promising, he said, although the work still needs to be tested in field trials.

One obstacle to bringing genetically modified crops into the field may be that researchers use bacteria to deliver new DNA into the plants, which means they will be considered GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But he said future research could use gene-editing tools such as CRISPR instead of introducing DNA from another organism, potentially avoiding some of the regulatory and consumer challenges associated with genetically modified foods.

Other experts were quick to point out that while research may move forward, we haven’t quite figured out the plants.

“There are more, more fundamental questions,” said Jian Hua, a plant biologist at Cornell University. For example, she said, it’s unclear why this immune pathway shuts down in the first place at high temperatures.

Hua points out that the slowing of immunity at high temperatures may be an evolutionary quirk, but there may also be some benefit to shutting down certain defenses as temperatures change. Some plants have other immune responses that actually increase when the temperature rises, and it’s unclear the relative importance of these different pathways or how they interact.

Rising temperatures from climate change will affect plants in many ways beyond immunity, but if researchers can find new ways to help plants protect themselves, this could ultimately mean less pesticide use and more resilient global food supply.

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