Resurrecting hope: drought tolerant crops
Drought is one of the major hurdles facing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with poor farming practices, political instability, population growth and lack of funding for agriculture, regular periods of drought have seen episodes where severe famine has nearly crippled entire nations.
In this article, Shaun Peters of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, describes how he and his colleagues are researching ways of genetically improving the ability of plants to cope with drought. They believe the answer lies in a unique type of resurrection plant, Xerophyta viscosa.
This plant can survive long periods without water, and then, when the rains come, it 'resurrects itself'. The scientists are now looking at a suite of genes that code for proteins responsible for this phenomenon. Their ambition is to clone these genes into agronomically important crops such as wheat and maize.