Jill Farrant: How we can make crops survive without water
Jill Farrant - Professor of molecular and cell biology
Jill Farrant is leading the development of drought-tolerant crops to nourish populations in arid climates. Full bio
extremely drought-tolerant crops,
to providing food security in the world,
that these plants look dead,
start growing, in 12 to 48 hours.
will go towards providing food security?
is around 7 billion.
happening in Africa.
organizations of the world
a 70 percent increase
are at the base of the food chain,
to have to come from plants.
the potential effects of climate change.
published in 2011,
of climate change
amongst other things --
or infrequent rain.
used for agriculture,
because of lack of rainfall.
that's predicted to happen in 2050.
in fact, much of the world,
very smart ways of producing food.
some drought-tolerant crops.
to remember about Africa is
is not the easiest thing in the world.
of water results in death.
changes to avoid that.
a little bit more water than us,
a little bit more than us,
depending on the species,
to resist or avoid water loss.
can be found in succulents.
at such great cost
are found in trees and shrubs.
it through them at all times,
of roots to shoots is so great
has been planted upside down.
for hydration of that plant.
of avoidance is found in annuals.
of our plant food supplies.
you don't see much vegetation growth.
they produce a seed,
that dry and still alive,
is lie in extremes of environment
of desiccation-tolerant seeds
or angiosperms, onto land.
as our major form of food supplies.
of our plant food supplies.
you can produce a lot of seed.
so there's a lot of food calories,
for times of famine,
avoidance or tolerance characteristics.
to help them survive the rest of the year.
efforts in agriculture
to understand how those work --
of their cellular water,
for months to years,
of environmental conditions.
plant species that can do this.
of these three species
so you can see how quickly it happens.
trying to understand how they do this.
of different resurrection plants,
of these plants serves as a model
to make drought-tolerant.
for example, is a grass,
called Eragrostis tef --
to make drought-tolerant.
at a number of plants,
do they do the same thing?
all that water and not die?
a systems biology approach
a comprehensive understanding
as they dried out
which is just a term for a technology
in response to drying.
so we look at the proteome.
in response to drying?
which make metabolites,
because plants are stuck in the ground.
a highly tuned chemical arsenal
the stresses of their environment.
involved in drying.
that we do at the molecular level,
are made of lipids.
because they're in water.
those membranes fall apart.
to turn on genes.
and biochemical studies
the function of the putative protectants
in our other studies.
to try and understand
with its natural environment.
I needed a comprehensive understanding
for a biotic application.
genetically modified crops?"
of genetic modification.
wheat, rice and maize,
from their ancestors,
by conventional breeding.
resurrection plant genes into crops,
we have tried that approach.
some of my collaborators at UCT,
upon an extremely ambitious approach,
whole suites of genes
under extreme drought conditions.
some of the data from that first approach.
about how genes work.
of double-stranded DNA.
of your body or in a plant's body.
of this gene, the next gene will start.
simple on-off switches.
a lot of fine-tuning,
before that gene is switched on.
in biotech studies
and see how the plant responds.
to talk to you about,
a drought-induced promoter,
in a resurrection plant.
is that we do nothing.
genes from resurrection plants.
particularly drought stress,
and can cause crop death.
that's very popularly used in Africa.
are plants without the genes,
do a hell of a lot better.
that there's considerable similarity
in seeds and resurrection plants.
evolved in seed desiccation tolerance
of resurrection plants?
of research from my group
of Henk Hilhorst in the Netherlands,
that are involved in both.
very crudely for maize,
for desiccation tolerance.
at the end of their period of development,
switch on the same genes
in their roots and leaves,
and cellular signals
in resurrection plants,
in the evolution of resurrection plants
for your attention.
About the speaker:Jill Farrant - Professor of molecular and cell biology
Jill Farrant is leading the development of drought-tolerant crops to nourish populations in arid climates.
Why you should listen
A professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, Jill Farrant researches the remarkable (and little known) world of resurrection plants. These are plants that can survive extreme drought, “resurrecting” when moistened or irrigated. If we can better understand their natural preservation mechanisms and their key protectants, she suggests, it could help us develop more drought-tolerant crops to feed populations in increasingly dry and arid climates around the world. Her research may also have medical applications.
Farrant was the African/Arab States recipient of the 2012 L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, one of only five scientists worldwide who were selected by an international jury as "researchers who will have a major impact on society and help light the way to the future." In 2009, she was awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation (the first female researcher at UCT ever to receive such a rating) as well as being made a member of the UCT College of Fellows.
Jill Farrant | Speaker | TED.com