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How vinegar can help plants survive droughts

Growing plants in vinegar or spraying them with vinegar can help them survive droughts, according to a new study.

Researchers at the IKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science set out to explain why  mutant versions of the plant Arabidopsis have strong drought tolerance.

These plants have a mutation to an enzyme called HDA6 (histone deacetylase6). The first goal of the study was to determine exactly how the mutation allows the plants to grow normally in severe and extended conditions without water.

Initial testing in normal Arabidopsis under stress during drought conditions showed that genomic-wide expression of hda6 was linked to activation of the biological pathway that produces acetate, the main component of vinegar.

The mutated plants produced larger amounts of acetate under the same conditions, the researchers found.

The results predicted that increasing the amount of acetate in plants could help them survive drought. The team tested this hypothesis by comparing plants sprayed with acetic acid compared to those grown normally. They found that after 14 days more than 7 percent of the plants treated with acetic acid had survived, while virtually all other plants had died.

They also found that drought tolerance also increased in rice, wheat, and maize when the plants were grown in optimal acetic acid concentrations.

“Although transgenic technologies can be used to create plants that are more tolerant to drought, we must also develop simple and less expensive technologies because genetically modified plants are not available in all countries,” said Jong-Myong Kim, one of the leaders of the study. “ We expect that external application of acetate to plants will be a useful, simple, and less expensive way to enhance drought tolerance in a variety of plants.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Plants.

By: David Beasley, Staff Writer

Source: IKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science

Image Credit: Riken

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