Stanford scientists reveal how grass developed a better way to breathe
Grasses are better able to withstand drought or high temperatures than many other plants in large part due to changes in their pores, called stomata. Stanford scientists have discovered how grasses produce these altered pores, which could someday lead to crops that can better survive climate change.
Flash back to your first lesson in photosynthesis and you may recall stomata, the holes in the leaves of land-based plants through which they take in carbon dioxide and let out oxygen and water vapor. In the 400 million years since plants colonized the land, these holes have remained largely unchanged, save for one major exception: grasses.
These plants, which make up about 60 percent of the calories people consume worldwide, have a modified stoma that experts believe makes them better able to withstand drought or high temperatures. Stanford University scientists have now confirmed the increased efficiency of grass stomata and gained insight into how they develop. Their findings, reported in the March 17 issue of Science, could help us cultivate crops that can thrive in a changing climate.
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Image: The protein in yellow moves out of the guard cells into cells on both sides. By recruiting these cells, grass stomata become better suited to hot and dry environments. (Credit: Michael Raissig and Dominique Bergmann)