Professor Sanders' own research is on improving the accumulation of zinc in cereal grains. Around two billion people suffer from iron and zinc deficiencies worldwide. Enhanced nutrient content is a crucial goal in the context of the growing world population and the central roles of staple crops in human diets. More research on transporters will improve uptake from the soil to the plant, and then redistribution within the seed.
Corresponding co-author, Professor Julian Schroeder, from the University of California San Diego, identified transporter HKT1 that protects plants from saline soils. In research and field experiments by author Professor Rana Munns, from Australia's CSIRO, grain yields in pasta wheat improved by 25% on saline soil.
The HKT1 membrane transporter is from one of the earliest domesticated wheat varieties. It keeps salt out of leaf cells that are essential for photosynthesis.
"Saline soils are causing increasing losses in agricultural yields globally," said Schroeder.
"Research is showing that HKT1 transporters protect very different types of plant species, suggesting they could help produce more food in many locations."
A major challenge will be to combine, or "pyramid", such traits without diverting energy from yield. Insights into transporters are showing that they operate in specific parts of the plant or specific cell types. This means that traits bestowed by transporters may be particularly suitable for "pyramiding". More research will be needed to check they are compatible.
|Contact: Zoe Dunford|
Norwich BioScience Institutes