Scientist Cultivating Crops That Aren't As Thirsty

Drought-tolerant plants could give water-starved farmers a fighting chance

Plant research being conducted by a UCSD biologist is focusing on how to do more with less, according to a published report.

Julian Schroeder's efforts could aid local farmers, who are struggling with a long-term drought, reports the He's trying to create crops that don’t require as much water, conserving more water.

San Diego is desperate to protect its agriculture from the scourge of drought, especially since the wildfires of 2003 and 2007, and Schroeder's new generation of crops might be able to do just that.

"Under drought stress, you have yield losses -- you can lose 30, 40, 50 percent of your yield," Schroeder told the "And if you could reduce that loss by half, that's a huge improvement."

One thing that differentiates the water crisis from the oil or even the economic crises is that water is a precious and scarce commodity that we cannot survive without. Society tends to focus more on the lack of economic stability instead of on the issue that has forced local farmers out of business.

But, how does it work?

Schroeder's labwork has resulted in two discoveries, new ways to improve a natural process whereby plants narrow or close pores in their leaves to conserve water. At times like these, when San Diego has been seared by wildfires and is in its third year of drought, making water scarce and prices for it high, drought-tolerant plants may be give farmers a fighting chance.

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