Salt and Drought have limited crop productivity for millennia. Over the last 12,000 years, humankind has developed varieties of crop plants that are well adapted to their surroundings and climate. Some of these areas are subject to drought or salinity. Physiologists are trying to figure out how these plants are able to do what they do. Some strategies that have been elucidated involve the whole plant – controlling the uptake of fluid and minerals; sending up these goodies to the shoot; distribution within the shoot and others. Individual cells from salt tolerant varieties are also able to survive much higher salt than those from high yielding but sensitive varieties. These findings should provide a starting point to developing crop plants that are productive under salt or drought.
About the Speaker:
MK Mathew graduated from IIT Delhi with a Masters in Chemistry, then saw the light and obtained a PhD in Molecular Biophysics from IISc Bangalore. After postdoctoral stints at UC San Francisco, Columbia University, Caltech and UC Berkeley, he joined the National Centre for Biological Sciences, a unit of TIFR. He has spent a quarter of a century figuring out how the molecules involved in electrical signalling in the nervous system work and a comparable period teasing out strategies employed by rice plants growing in salty soils. He is now retired and aspires to the title of Gentleman of Leisure.