New study on plant metabolism can help produce more food for increasing population

A new study, headed by the University of Melbourne, has demonstrated how plants exploit their metabolism to identify time and know when to develop—a finding that could help grow crops under various conditions, such as different latitudes, different seasons, or even in vertical gardens and artificial environments.

New study on plant metabolism can help produce more food for increasing population
Researchers have found a different metabolic signal that acts at dusk and changes the activity of plants’ clock genes. Image Credit: Getty.

The study has been published in the PNAS journal.

Superoxide is supported by sucrose and influences the amplitude of circadian rhythms in the evening time. The study explains how plants utilize their metabolism to perceive time at dusk and help preserve energy created from solar light during the daytime.

According to Dr Mike Haydon, a lead researcher from the School of Biosciences, even though plants do not sleep as human beings do, their metabolism is altered during the nighttime to preserve energy for the big day ahead of preparing their own food through photosynthesis or energy from solar light.

Getting the timing of this daily cycle of metabolism right is really important because getting it wrong is detrimental to growth and survival. Plants can't stumble to the fridge in the middle of the night if they get hungry so they have to predict the length of the night so there's enough energy to last until sunrise; a bit like setting an alarm clock.”

Dr Mike Haydon, Lead Researcher, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Dr Haydon and his colleagues have previously demonstrated that the buildup of sugars created from photosynthesis provides the plant with significant data about the quantity of sugar produced in the morning and transmits signals to the so-called circadian clock to alter its speed.

We have now found that a different metabolic signal, called superoxide, acts at dusk and changes the activity of circadian clock genes in the evening. We also found that this signal affects plant growth. We think this signal could be providing information to the plant about metabolic activity as the sun sets.”

Dr Mike Haydon, Lead Researcher, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne

The team hopes that this research work will prove useful in the world for producing more food, in a more reliable way.

As we strive to produce more food for the increasing global population in the face of changing climate, we may need to grow crops in different environments such as different seasons, different latitudes or even in artificial environments like vertical gardens. Understanding how plants optimize rhythms of metabolism could be useful information to allow us to fine-tune their circadian clocks to suit these conditions and maximize future yields.”

Dr Mike Haydon, Lead Researcher, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Source:
Journal reference:

Haydon, M., et al. (2021) Superoxide is promoted by sucrose and affects amplitude of circadian rhythms in the evening. PNAS. doi.org/10.5061/dryad.v41ns1rv9.

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