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Jill Farrant

Date & Location: February 14, 2022, at 2p; Virtual visit

Zoom Meeting Link: msu.zoom.us/j/95996313892 (Passcode: 862930)

Subject: Resurrection plants as models for climate smart agriculture

Host: Yuya Liang

About the Speaker

Institution: University of Cape Town

Abstract: DSI-NRF SARChI, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa.

Drought is the greatest threat to world agriculture and due to global warming, increased aridification is predicted in most current food producing areas. To safeguard food security, it is essential to radically improve drought tolerance in crops and fodder. This is particularly significant for Africa, where 95% of agriculture is rain fed. All current crops are intolerant of extreme water loss and while improved resistance to water loss has been achieved, such mechanisms fail under severe and prolonged drought. Resurrection plants, so called because of their ability to survive and revive from the extreme water loss of 95% cellular water content, have increasingly become models for understanding this phenomenon, with the view of using such understanding to produce extremely drought tolerant crops. Such vegetative desiccation tolerance is rare in angiosperms, with only 240 species reported to date. Resurrection angiosperms occurring in Southern Africa also survive extreme heat; conditions which severely limit current agricultural practices. My group has systematically investigated the mechanisms whereby several different resurrection plants, each as a model for a crop to be transformed, tolerate these extreme conditions. Recent studies include investigations of resurrection plant associated root microbiomes and their potential roles in plant drought tolerance. A multidisciplinary approach is used, with studies embracing physiological, biochemical and molecular techniques utilized to interrogate the complex mechanisms of desiccation tolerance, and biotechnological tools utilized to functionally interrogate derived data and the ultimate production of a more drought tolerant phenotype in select crops. In this presentation an overview of molecular physiological processes associated with DT in a range of resurrection plants will be given, and current and future applied outputs discussed.