Plants require water in order to grow. However, the amount of water needed and the timing can differ based on the type of plant. Changes in the climate and the demands of an ever-growing population will decrease how much water is available to grow food.
Plants are affected by suffering from drought because they don’t have enough water to support their development and reproduction. Stress from lack can result in food crops becoming less productive, not produce any crop at all, or dying. Drought stress is a significant issue in areas where crop production relies heavily on rain to provide for the crop’s needs. These are referred to as rainfed systems. They account for the bulk of the world’s land that is cultivated as well as food production.
The weather is not controlled, but to a certain extent, plants can. Because they are not mobile the way they would like, plants must adjust and adjust for environment changes. This includes extreme temperatures, drought, or salt. Scientists are attempting to harness this ability to assist plants to adapt faster to stress or more efficiently to increase productivity and longevity.
Aline de Camargo Santos evaluates stress in primed and non-primed peanut plants by using instruments that measure the amount of the plant’s reflection of light, the sign of strain in the plant. Her research suggests how treating the seeds of peanuts using a solution of melatonin before planting can help the plant deal with stress caused by drought. Credits: Edivan R. de Souza.
Though plants do not have brains or a nervous system, they cancan to’remember the stress experience after experiencing it several times via a process known as “stress memory.” The repetition of the stress “trains the plant to remember the pressure when it occurs repeatedly.
Plant physiologists- scientists who study how plants work – are trying to utilize stress memory to increase crop tolerance in the face of drought. One method to prepare plants for stress is by “priming” them. Although it’s not identical, the concept of priming is similar to administering a treatment to the plants.
As vaccines release into the body, a small amount of virus stimulates our immune system by exposing plants to low stress levels to trigger stress-related responses. After getting vaccinated, they may have specific symptoms, but they will recover after some time. If exposed to the disease, they will be immune and usually not suffer from extreme symptoms.
Peanut seeds soaking in solution (left: Melatonin primed seeds, right: not primed seeds in deionized water). Melatonin-primed bases are covered with aluminum foil to protect them from light since melatonin is reactive to light. Credits: Aline de Camargo Santos.
Primed plants exhibit an identical reaction. After the priming treatment, they show minor signs of stress, such as mild wilting or decreased metabolic activity. The ideal treatment does not slow growth but warns the plant to prepare for stress. After the plants have returned to their normal state in the process, they recover and can perform more effectively if stress comes later in the growth cycle.
My research is focused on priming to increase peanut’s resistance to drought stress through the testing of two different methods of priming. The first method is to apply mild pressure on the water in the early stages of the growing season to prime the plant. Primed plants receive less than the recommended amount of irrigation for peanuts during the prime time, approximately two weeks. After that, plants are given ample water to recover and strengthen their defense mechanism. Then, later in the season, we again stress the plants by stopping all irrigation to determine whether the priming treatment enhances the tolerance to stress. Then, we remove the plants, and the efficiency of the primed and unprimed plants are compared. This method could decrease the amount of irrigation used while preserving the yield and increasing the peanut plant’s ability to withstand stress.