The way plants chill out
Author:Science and Technology Division, UK
Article Source:Adapted from: The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council 22nd May 2012
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded scientists from the University of Bristol to study how plants adapt themselves in a hot environment and found that plants elongate their stems at high temperature to facilitate the cooling of their leaves.
Although scientists have made significant advances in understanding how plants elongate at high temperature, little is known of the physiological consequences of this response. To investigate these consequences, the researchers studied thale cress.
When grown at higher temperatures, plants have an elongated, spindly architecture and develop fewer leaf pores, known as stomata. However, in spite of having a reduced number of stomata, the elongated plants displayed greater water loss and leaf evaporative cooling. The scientists believe that the bigger gap between the elongated stem and leaves accelerates the evaporating function of stomata, hence enhancing the cooling process.
Temperature and water availability are major factors affecting plant yield. Understanding the relationship between temperature, plant architecture and water use is therefore essential for maximising future crop production and ensuring food security in a changing climate.