Rain-trapping bacteria becomes ‘water bank’ for thirsty crops
Polish scientists have found a way to support plants during a drought – through the clever use of bacteria.
Amid concerns about climate change, scientists in different countries have been looking for ways to make crops more resistant to drought, which reduces yields due to limited rainfall, pushing up prices for consumers.
EU-funded research has examined how common crops – such as maize and bread wheat – cope with heat and water stress, and developed new ways to improve water-use efficiency and boost yield in plants growing in drought conditions.
In Poland, scientists at biotech company Bio-Gen are investigating a different approach, using bacteria to help prepare crops for periods of drought.
Already, the country faces the desertification of areas due to climate change, according to Artur Kleina, Bio-Gen’s CEO.
“Knowing that hydration will not be possible everywhere, we approached the problem from a different angle, looking for a natural way to prepare plants for living in conditions of limited access to water,” he said.
Biotechnologists at Bio-Gen worked with specialists at Procam Polska, a distributor of plant protection products, to develop a natural solution using selected local bacteria. Over the past two years, they have tested it in northern Poland, where drought is a growing problem.
The team found that plants form a larger root system in the presence of the bacteria, which makes them more resistant to the lack of rainfall.
“The microorganisms catch even small amounts of water from rainfall and are able to create a specific bank of water in the soil, which is used by the plants living in symbiosis with them,” Kleina explained.
Applied on a broader scale, the solution could potentially help crops brave hot, dry weather conditions, which would be welcome news to farmers in Poland and beyond.