Taking inspiration from desert crops, researchers are one step closer to genetically enhancing crops to grow in water-limited conditions.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have identified a common set of genes that drought-resistant plants all use to survive in semi-arid conditions, paving the way for scientists to bioengineer drought-resistant crops.

ORNL senior staff scientist Xiaohan Yang, PhD, of the Biosciences Division, said that droughts are the largest major cause of crop loss globally.

“The loss caused by drought is much higher than the rest of the factors like disease or pests,” Yang said in an interview with R&D Magazine. “In general, it is the largest impact of environmental factors resulting in the loss of crops.”

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