By sequencing the genetic history of the tropical fruit, researchers found that pineapples might hold the secret to drought-resistant crops and could be an important step against global warming.
- Pineapples are the second most popular tropical fruit, growing in around 85 different countries
- They started being cultivated 6,000 years ago, in Brazil and Paraguay
- They use a type of photosynthesis called CAM, and have a circadian clock gene
- By engineering those traits in normal plants, common crops could survive in arid temperatures
The world’s crops are facing dire times ahead, due to climate change. The increasing temperatures are placing a strain on their growth, which makes it challenging to sustain the population. In the future, the situation could potentially become much grave if no measures will be taken.
This has prompted scientists from the University of Illinois to conduct their study on pineapples.
The tropical fruit are exceptionally popular, growing in around 85 different countries, with an industry that is worth almost $9 billion. Pineapples are the second most popular tropical fruit after bananas, and have a long history of multiple uses. Ranging from its consumption due to taste and flavor, they provide for ample functions in medications or other form of products.
They have been cultivated for the past 6,000 years, which presented them with a long evolutionary history. The key point of the study was centered around their highly efficient way of consuming water and adjusting their metabolism to arid temperatures. It’s a trait that it’s now urgently needed for more common crops, such as rice or wheat.
Pineapples use a form of photosynthesis that is called crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). This special manner of absorbing light aids the tropical fruit in being much more efficient than most crop plants that use C3 type of photosynthesis.
In fact, plants with CAM can fully function with 20 to 80% less water than most common types. This enables them growing in arid lands that are naturally ill-suited for normal crops.
The secret within pineapple’s genes is due to this exceptional process, along with its own circadian clock. This allows the plant to differentiate between daytime and nighttime. It will make sure to adjust its metabolism accordingly. As such, pineapples close up the pores in their leaves during the day, and open them at night for better absorption.
It’s a highly successful process that allows their growth in areas with high temperatures. By sequencing its genetic code, and introducing CAM into C3 plants, researchers hope that it will instill better resistance into common crops. Engineering that particular type of photosynthesis in rice, for example, would aid their survival. Even more, they might thrive in arid regions.
Perhaps this excellent resilience of pineapples would help build drought-resistant crops, and in turn, secure food supplies for the future.
Image source: livescience.com