The scientists hope that their results, published in Science, will allow new crop improvement strategies, which will be vital as we look at the prospect of delivering food security for a population that is projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050.
The CHLORAD pathway helps to normalise structures inside plant cells called chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the organelles that define plants. Along with many other metabolic, developmental and signalling functions, chloroplasts are responsible for photosynthesis -- the process whereby sunlight energy is harnessed to power the cellular actions of life.
Consequently, chloroplasts are crucial, not only for plants but also for the countless ecosystems that depend on plants, and for agriculture.
By the year 2050, the current level of food production must increase by at least 70% to meet the demands of a growing world population and shifting dietary preferences towards more animal products, while 38% of the world's land and 70% of fresh water are already used for agriculture. Abiotic stresses, including drought, high and low temperatures, soil salinity, nutrient deficiencies, and toxic metals, are the leading cause of yield loss, decreasing crop productivity by 50-80% depending on the crop and geographical location.
Therefore, developing stress-resistant crops that can have steady harvests under stress conditions is an vital approach to ensure future food security. This necessity is particularly pressing considering the increased frequency of extreme weather conditions that accompany global climate change, which cause more severe environmental stresses, more frequent plant disease outbreaks, and reduced yield and harvest quality.
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