Utrecht researchers discovered that several crops still have the genes required to survive flooding, but they seem to have lost the ability to activate these genes, like rice does. “With the floods increasing in frequency, it is important that we work towards understanding how our crops can become more resilient to flooding.”
Together with researchers from the University of California and Emory University, Utrecht researchers studied how crops respond when submerged to water. In Science (20 September) they describe how they studied a wild-growing tomato, a tomato used for farming, a plant similar to alfalfa, and rice. Currently rice is the only major food crop able to survive flooding. But the team discovered that the genes that are necessary for a submergence response are still present in other crops too. It turns out that they all share at least 68 families of genes in common that are activated in response to flooding, so called submergence up-regulated families (SURFs).