In the recent years, all major crops have suffered severe losses across the globe due to catastrophic alterations in the environmental factors such as water, temperature, air quality, soil composition. In scientific terms, it is called as the Abiotic Stress in plants. The plant abiotic stress can be of several types such as drought, flooding, heat stress, cold and chilling stress, metal toxicity and salinity stress. Crop scientists around the world have been working tirelessly to produce crops that are resilient to these environmental stresses by several methods such as conventional breeding and molecular breeding programmes which have yielded results but are time-consuming and not up to the mark. At this stage comes the intervention of the plant biotechnology and genetic engineering techniques which can help to produce plants that are resistant to the different abiotic stresses and also in short span of time. This will result in a generation of crops that are ready to face the atrocities of the climate change and are thus aptly termed as the Climate-Ready Crops.
The various international organizations like International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are investing huge amount of money for research of such genes or proteins that can be genetically introduced into the crops to make them tolerant towards abiotic stresses. For instance the high-yielding cultivated indica rice variety Swarna, grown in the lower Gangetic plains in India and Bangladesh faced huge losses due to prolonged submergence under the flood waters. Scientists from US successfully worked on the gene Sub-1 obtained from a common land-race rice variety and found that this gene when transformed into the rice cultivar Swarna, miraculously conferred tolerance to the flooding stress and also resulted in improved yield under submergence. The gene and variety (now named as Swarna-Sub1) has been patented and its seeds are being distributed to the farmers to grow rice in the flood-prone areas. Similar experiments are being carried by various plant bio-technologists all over the world to help produce crops that are climate-ready.
Blog contributed by: Dr. Ranjeet Kaur (Mangalmay Group of Institutions, Greater Noida)
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