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Plants Have Hormones, Too, and Tweaking Them Could Improve Food Supply

Scientist holding the model plant Arabidopsis in the laboratory. Credit: Getty Images Between crop damage caused by climate change, and a rising global population and nutritional demand, it is clear the world will need to produce more food in the future. Researchers have long studied ways to help plants resist environmental stressors such as pests and drought, both through conventional breeding and genetic modification. But many questions still remain about how, exactly, plants interact with their environment and how scientists might be able to modify those processes to help them adapt.

Researchers at the Institute of Network Biology in Germany and their colleagues may have found a way to help. In early July they published a study in Nature showing that plants communicate with the environment in more complex ways than previously thought. The investigation revealed that the information-processing network, driven by hormones, in one genus of plants is carried out by more than 2,000 protein interactions, hundreds of which had not been discovered before. “We’re going to need a second green revolution,” says Shelley Lumba, a plant biologist at the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study. “These would be good leads to test.”

Unlike animals, which […]

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