World’s population is still growing. In order to feed all the new mouths, we have to grow more food. At the same time, we want to manage our land efficiently, which means that we have to grow more food in the same area of land. Now an international team of scientists discovered new information about how veins are formed in plants. It might help us improve crop productivity.

International team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Adelaide, were researching how hormones regulate plant growth. They were particularly interested in vascular plants that have veins in leaves, stems and roots. This vascular system allows plants to carry water and nutrients to cells at the same time providing them with more structural support.

An efficient formation of those veins in essence means that the plant will grow easier and faster. Scientists discovered that hormone auxin flows from new leaves and buds, connecting and re-joining veins. This hormone also heals wound sites in a process called canalisation.

But there is another hormone involved in this process too – strigolactones. This hormone reduces the transportation of auxin, essentially slowing down the formation of veins. It is an interesting control mechanism. Essentially, strigolactones suppress auxin’s flow from the root tips and its transportation out of the cells.

Scientists say that understanding this interaction could lead them to creating better crops that would adapt themselves to the environment better and grow more efficiently. And that’s the major challenge for the future research – to find how auxin and strigolactones interact in the process of vein formation.

Scientists warn that this is not to say that hormones should be used in growing crops. That is certainly a possibility, but in many cases hormones result in unwanted side effects. Dr Philip Brewer, co-author of the study, said: “Improved knowledge of how the hormones act allows us to uncover ways to fine-tune hormone responses so that we can realise the benefits and limit the side effects. While more research is needed in this field, this study contributes to fundamental knowledge of plant biology and offers hope of finding new ways to adapt crops to increasingly difficult climate conditions”.

World’s population is increasing, but at the same time people have growing concerns about our environmental impact. This means that we have to find ways to increase food productions without introducing new chemicals. Scientists will have to take a long hard look into hormones to see if they are worth the try. Maybe it would be possible to breed crops that would feature the perfect hormone balance for the ultimate vein formation?

Source: University of Adelaide