Food security is a serious potential problem, especially in the face of climate change. In a new study, scientists have shown that manipulating RNA in plants can dramatically increase crop yields and make them more resistant to drought.
In the new study, the researchers focused on a protein called FTO, the first known protein that erases chemical tags on RNA. The researchers knew that FTO affects RNA, influencing cell growth in humans and animals, so they tried to introduce this gene into rice plants.
As a result, in laboratory conditions, they gave three times more rice. In real field trials, the plants grew 50% more in weight and produced 50% more rice. They showed excellent growth and better developed root systems, and were also able to tolerate drought stress better. The analysis also showed that the plants had an increased rate of photosynthesis.
Scientists have repeated experiments with potato plants that belong to a completely different family. The results were the same.
It is important to note that this technique gave the same results for both rice and potatoes, which are not particularly closely related. This suggests that it can work on a wide variety of plants, increasing their resistance to climate change.
The research is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.