Drought-Resilient Tomatoes – Part One
The key to drought resilience in crops like tomatoes most likely lies in the roots, which are hard to study because they are of course underground. Siobhan Brady and a team of researchers at UC Davis have been working on creating a molecular atlas of tomato roots, where plants first detect the effects of drought and other environmental threats.
“We wanted to be able to first try to understand what is happening in the individual cells within those roots underground. And then to use that as a platform to try to understand similarities and differences in other root cells of other species,” said Brady.
Among many discoveries in this research, Brady and his team have been able to better understand how the exodermis helps make plants more drought resilient.
“It hadn’t really been molecularly characterized before, but it produces this barrier. And that barrier is thought to be really important for protecting the root when there isn’t enough water. In the ground. So it kind of forms a barrier to keep that water in. And so now we have the genes that we think are controlling that, and so we can study that process more and hopefully be able to breed more drought-resilient tomatoes,” noted Brady.