An interview with Dr. Ray of the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.
March 18, 2015
Dr. Rumiana Ray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, with expertise in plant pathology and physiology. Her research is focused on understanding the epidemiology of economically damaging crop diseases, yield loss relationships and integrated control strategies for abiotic and biotic stress management. We spoke with Dr. Ray about her research on the relationship between drought adaptation traits and the effect of sedaxane on stress tolerance.
What is the relationship between drought adaptation traits and yield?
The relationship between drought adaptation traits and yield is quite complex. It is very important when we are actually encountering stress for crop production – especially drought stress. Morphological traits, such as leaf lignification and waxing, can help the plant preserve water and continue photosynthesis under stress situations, which sustains crop productivity.
How can a seed treatment help a plant in drought stress situations?
A seed treatment such as sedaxane can be beneficial as it helps the plant sustain photosynthetic efficiency under severe drought conditions. We found that sedaxane increases the maximum efficiency of Photosystem II under drought. This increase also related to the effect of sedaxane on light emitted back into the environment as non-photochemical quenching. Plants treated with sedaxane are less wasteful in energy emitted as fluorescence or heat under severe drought stress and allocate more energy for photochemical processes so that light is used more productively for build-up of biomass and yield.
Could you explain this effect a bit more?
The primary mechanism of sedaxane is to increase the maximum efficiency of Photosystem II under light. We observed this effect at 11 days after seed germination. It is, amongst others, related to a significant reduction of non-photochemical quenching –which means that the plant is capable of utilizing the energy for photosynthetic processes and does not loose energy non-productively either as heat or as fluorescence. In addition to that, we have found that sedaxane alters gene expression in plants, affecting plant morphology and development, to cope better with stress. We observed an increase in the expression of genes related to leaf lignification and waxing, which are both drought adaption traits.
How can this information be used in future research?
Through our research with sedaxane on photoprotective responses and genetic studies, we have identified major genes altering plant development and morphology that allow plant adaptation to stressful environments (in this case drought). We can use these genes to improve our crop varieties. This important information can be particularly useful to improve breeding of novel crop varieties that are able to perform better under abiotic stress.
To learn about another project that looks more closely at the impact of Rhizoctonia on root structure, please follow this link: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpls.2015.00461/abstract
Dr. Rumiana Ray was interviewed by Dr. Melanie Goll, Technical Innovation Manager, Syngenta. Melanie holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology and focuses on seed treatment development, especially fungicides and nematicides.