How Molecular Plant Physiology Creates Drought Tolerant Crops
Resurrection plants are not only the lazy gardener’s best friend, but a real hope for the fight against hunger in the world. While most plants have a phase in their life cycle in which tissues can survive drought conditions, only resurrection plants can tolerate almost complete water loss from vegetative tissues. The desiccated plant can remain alive in the dried state for years, and rehydrate within 24-72 hours of being watered. The South African researcher Jill Farrant, a leading expert in the field of plant molecular physiology and cell biology, is determined to find the secrets behind these self-protective properties in order to improve the resistance of crops in Africa. By comparing several species of resurrection plants under physiological, biochemical and molecular aspects, Farrant aims to create a basis for bioengineering drought-tolerant crops – a project of particular importance for the African continent, where the impacts of climate change have devastating effects on agriculture and food security. Having been awarded the 2012 L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science and the A-rating by South Africa’s National Research Foundation, Jill Farrant is considered a living inspiration for making her own life a story of fight and rebirth.