Waterproofing crops

Main area:Agro-biology
 
Target group:Biology, Biochemistry
 
Educational level:Bachelor, Masters
 
Project description:

Global climate changes have world-wide caused more heavy rainfall events over the last few decades along with an increased likelihood of devastating floods. Widespread increases in heavy precipitation have occurred, even in places where annual rain fall have decreased because warmer air can hold more moisture. Moreover, shifts in snowfall patterns, the onset of spring and snow melting may all exacerbate some flooding risks. As a consequence, cereals - even those that are currently grown on well-drained soils - may experience flooding throughout the growth season with serious impact on farming practice and eventually also yield. In this project you will help assess the submergence tolerance of wheat (Triticum aestivum) with the potential to develop wheat cultivars capable of surviving future climate-change induced floods.

Questions asked
Terrestrial plant survival during flooding is highly dependent on availability of O2 and sugars for respiration. Hence, the project aims to assess the i) capacity for underwater photosynthesis in wheat (Triticum aestivum) or rice (Oryza sativa) - or even their wild relatives - as function of light and CO2 in the flooding environment and ii) importance of leaf gas films for underwater photosynthesis. Wheat and rice form gas films on its super hydrophobic leaf surfaces during inundation and leaf gas films have been shown to improve the flooding tolerance of rice and many wild wetland plants so questions related to gas film functioning are included in the examination of the capacity for underwater photosynthesis.

However, O2 produced during underwater photosynthesis has to reach O2 consuming tissues, e.g. roots, to ensure plant functioning. In flooding tolerant plants, this is enabled by gas-filled tissues (aerenchyma) connecting plant organs. This allows for faster O2 movement throughout the plant, termed internal aeration. The capability for internal aeration in wheat or rice during complete submergence is however poorly understood. Therefore you will also have the possibility to help assess the capabilities of internal aeration in these plants.

Approach
Leaf segments of 5-6 weeks old plants are incubated in glass vials under controlled light and CO2 conditions and underwater net photosynthesis is measured using the O2 evolution technique. Leaf gas films can be experimentally manipulated using a dilute detergent enabling comparison of photosynthesis rates with and without leaf gas films. Rates of underwater net photosynthesis can be compared to rates obtained in air. Additional tests on effects of submergence can be tested on various cultivars, including the effect of temperature upon mortality during submergence.

Also, the applications of O2-microelectrodes both in situ and in controlled laboratory experiments will help assess the capacity for internal aeration in wheat or rice. The application of microelectrodes requires a bit of technical interests. Collaboration with the University of Western Australia may also be an option.

 
Methods used:microsensors; MicroResp; HPLC; experimental design; relevant statistics
 
Keywords:flooding, oversvømmelse, crop, afgrøder, climate change
 
Project home page: http://www.flooding.dk/list-of-student-research-topics
 
Supervisor(s):  Ole Pedersen
 
Email:opedersen@bio.ku.dk