Grain of hope
QUINOA could hold the key to breeding salt-tolerant crops, according to a study.
The finding could prove instrumental in long-term efforts to address global food security. The research, published in the journal
Cell Research, found that quinoa, which is naturally salt-tolerant, could serve as a model for developing salt-tolerant crops.
This could include related crops such as spinach and sugar beets.
Co-author of the report is Sergey Shabala, from the University of Tasmania’s School of Land and Food.
Professor Shabala said intensification of agricultural production and heavy irrigation posed a significant challenge for global food security.
“Unsustainable agriculture practices can cause soil erosion and salinity, which stunts the growth of crops and over a long period can lead to infertile soils,” he said.
“This research is helping to address this challenge by taking a new approach to the breeding of salt-tolerant crops.”
Prof Shabala said the team had focused on quinoa due to its natural resistance to abiotic stresses such as salinity, drought and low temperatures.
“The remarkable salt-tolerance quality of quinoa can be attributed to epidermal bladder cells, which have a volume around 1000 times greater of that of normal epidermal cells,” he said.
Researchers have generated a highquality genome draft using an inbred line of a quinoa cultivar.
This has provided insights and enabled the identification of genes involved in salinity tolerance, which will provide the basis for molecular breeding in quinoa.
The research is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, Shanghai Centre for Plant Stress Biology and the University of Wurzburg.
The paper is available online www. nature.com/cr/journal/vaop/ncurrent/ full/cr2017124a.html