No water for plants during a drought? You can give them booze
When a particular region grapples with extreme drought, the ecosystem gets impacted. Lakes, rivers and other water bodies dry up, posing threat to the vegetation in the surroundings during the parched conditions. The scarcity of water is a serious threat to agriculture, causing significant losses to crop yield and product quality.
A new peer-reviewed study suggests that in times of drought, ethanol (or alcohol) can be used to help plants survive. The study, conducted at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan, was published on Wednesday (August 25).
Motoaki Seki led the study, which is published in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology states that the use of ethanol will make plants survive even for as long as two weeks without water. As per the study, plants naturally produce ethanol when they are deprived of water.
Seki told CNN: "The discovery came from the process of searching for compounds that make plants resistant to stress."
The study claims that as ethanol is safe, cheap and widely available, it can offer a practical way to increase food production all over the world during the scarcity of water.
The practice would help in getting rid of the costly, time-consuming and controversial production of genetically modified plants.
Drought, water shortages, extreme heat, and rising temperatures are clear signs of climate change. Such conditions will lead to food shortages unless action is taken.
This study gives an option to find a way to prevent plants from dying even in the absence, or proper access to water.
To conduct the study, the researchers grew plants for about two weeks with ample water. In the next process, the researchers pretreated soil with ethanol for three days and then deprived them of water for two weeks.
The study found that about 75 per cent of wheat and rice plants survived after rewateing which was treated with ethanol. Meanwhile, less than 5 per cent of the untreated plants survived.
Seki said, "We find that treating common crops such as wheat and rice with exogenous ethanol can increase crop production during drought. As in Arabidopsis, this is likely via changes in the metabolomic and transcriptomic profiles that regulate the drought-stress response. This offers us a cheap and easy way to increase crop yield even when water is limited, without the need for genetic modification."