Desert microbes turn on drought tolerance when needed

20 July, 2023

Germinating Arabidopsis (thale cress) and alfalfa with a microbe taken from the roots of a common desert plant has been shown to help them to thrive under drought conditions.

“Mitigating the effects of drought on crop plants is an urgent goal for those of us working in agricultural biotechnology,” says Heribert Hirt from KAUST, who worked on the project with colleagues from Germany and across Saudi Arabia, including Khairiah Alwutayd, an assistant professor from Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.

“The DARWIN21 desert initiative was launched 10 years ago at KAUST to isolate and analyze desert microbes. Our hope is that they can convey the same traits to crop plants as they do to desert plants, making them heat, salt and/or drought tolerant,” says Hirt. “This could contribute greatly to global food security.”

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