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Heat-tolerant plants that can prevent a food crisis

Heat-tolerant plants that can prevent a food crisis

A research team at American and Chinese universities says they have discovered a way to help plants survive extreme heat.

With crops around the world threatened by rising temperatures, this research could help plants withstand climate change.

If the findings can be applied to cultivated crops it could be vital to protecting food supplies during heat waves.

Are crops affected by climate change?

Heat waves can be deadly for agricultural crops. When hit by high temperatures and droughts, plant defenses weaken and crops become vulnerable to insect and pathogen attacks.

In northern Italy, which is in the grip of a heat wave and drought, crops such as rice and corn are being destroyed.

What happens to plants at high temperatures?

The scientists studied a plant defense hormone known as salicylic acid. When plants are threatened by disease or pests, salicylic acid levels increase up to sevenfold. This boosts the plant's immune system and helps prevent attack.

However, at particularly high temperatures, plants are unable to increase salicylic acid levels leaving them vulnerable to pathogens or insects.

How can plants survive high temperatures?

Scientists have identified a way to prevent this decline in salicylic acid production and boost plant immunity when temperatures rise.

If they are able to reproduce the same heat resistance in common crops, this could prevent food crises during periods of extreme heat.