Nav: Home

Impulsive micromanagers help plants to adapt, survive

August 14, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Soil microbes are impulsive. So much so that they help plants face the challenges of a rapidly changing climate.

Jen Lau and Jay Lennon, Michigan State University biologists studied how plants and microbes work together to help plants survive the effects of global changes, such as increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, warmer temperatures and altered precipitation patterns. The results, appearing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that microbes in the ground not only interact with plants, but they also prompt them to respond to environmental changes.

"We found that these changes in the plants happen primarily because of what global changes do to the belowground microbes rather than the plant itself," said Lau, who works at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station. "Drought stress affects microbes, and they, in turn, drive plants to flower earlier and help plants grow and reproduce when faced with drought."

The team conducted a multi-generational experiment that manipulated environmental factors above and below ground while paying close attention to the interaction between the plants and microbes in the soil. Close examination of this particle partnership revealed some interesting results.

Researchers already knew that drought stress reduced plant growth and altered their life cycle. The team was surprised, though, to observe that the plants were slow to evolve and, instead, microbes did most of the work of helping plants survive in new, drier environments. This happened because the microbes were quick to adapt to the changing environment.

This newfound aspect of their relationship gives plants an additional strategy for survival, Lau said.

"When faced with environmental change, plants may not be limited to traditional 'adapt or migrate' strategies," she said. "Instead, they may also benefit from a third approach - interacting with complementary species such as the diverse microbes found in the soil."
-end-
Lau and Lennon's research is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch.

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

Michigan State University

Related Drought Articles:

An evapotranspiration deficit drought index to detect drought impacts on ecosystems
The difference between actual and potential evapotranspiration, technically termed a standardized evapotranspiration deficit drought index (SEDI), can more sensitively capture the biological changes of ecosystems in response to the dynamics of drought intensity, compared with indices based on precipitation and temperature.
Sesame yields stable in drought conditions
Research shows adding sesame to cotton-sorghum crop rotations is possible in west Texas
Mapping the effects of drought on vulnerable populations
The greater frequency of droughts, combined with underlying economic, social, and environmental risks means that dry spells have an increasingly destructive impact on vulnerable populations, and particularly on children in the developing world.
Asia's glaciers provide buffer against drought
A new study to assess the contribution that Asia's high mountain glaciers make to relieving water stress in the region is published this week (May 29, 2019) in the journal Nature.
How severe drought influences ozone pollution
From 2011 to 2015, California experienced its worst drought on record, with a parching combination of high temperatures and low precipitation.
A faster, more accurate way to monitor drought
A new drought monitoring method developed at Duke University allows scientists to identify the onset of drought sooner, meaning conservation or remediation measures could be put into place sooner.
How does the Amazon rain forest cope with drought?
The Amazon rain forest isn't necessarily a place that many would associate with a drought, yet prolonged dry spells are projected to become more prevalent and severe because of climate change.
Trees change inside as drought persists
James Cook University scientists in Australia have found that trees change their anatomy in response to prolonged drought.
Climate changes require better adaptation to drought
Europe's future climate will be characterised by more frequent heat waves and more widespread drought.
New research identifies two types of drought across China and how they evolve
Dr. Linying WANG and Professor Xing YUAN, from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, used in-situ observations and reanalysis datasets to explore the long-term variability and trends of two types of flash drought.
More Drought News and Drought Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab