Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Genomics for drought resistance – getting down to earth

Abraham Blum

Plantstress (www.plantstress.com), PO Box 16246, Tel Aviv, Israel. Email: ablum@plantstress.com

Functional Plant Biology 41(11) 1191-1198 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP14018
Submitted: 14 January 2014  Accepted: 10 March 2014   Published: 11 April 2014

Abstract

A meta-analysis of 520 reports published during the last 20 years on transgenic and mutant plants generated towards drought resistance revealed a total of at least 487 tested transgenic plants involving at least 100 genes claimed to be functional towards drought resistance. During this period, the rate of reported new experimental transgenic model or crop plants for drought resistance has been increasing exponentially. Despite these numbers, qualified sources of information indicate a very limited impact on global dryland agriculture, whereas the genetically modified (GM) market hardly recognises drought-resistant GM cultivars. This paper discusses possible reasons for the limited impact of genomics on the delivery of drought-resistant cultivars, which are beyond issues of regulation, propriety or commercialisation. These reasons are mainly tied to scientific and methodological problems in drought stress gene expression work and the functional genomics protocols used to identify drought resistance. Insufficient phenotyping of experimental transgenic plants for drought resistance often does not allow true conclusions about the real function of the discovered genes towards drought resistance. The discussion is concluded by proposing an outline of a minimal set of tests that might help us resolve the real function of discovered genes, thus bringing the research results down to earth.

Additional keywords: genetic modification, mutants, transgenic plants, water stress.


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