Researchers looking for heat-tolerant crops - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Researchers looking for heat-tolerant crops

DALLAS (KXAS/NBC) - The drought and heat wave are scorching crops across the state of Texas. Now, a team of researchers is looking for ways to help plants survive the harsh conditions developing crops that will be tolerant to drought and heat.

The heat and drought have zapped the life out of Texas crops. As farmers pray for rain, a researcher is looking for ways to help plants survive these conditions.

"If you go out to the fields, you will see devastation. Crops are dying. Unless you can water the crops, you have lost them already." Dr. Ron Mittler of the University of Texas said.

Mittler studied desert plants and noticed how they tolerate heat and drought.

"They can take a combination of drought and heat and survive, while a soybean will completely die," he said.

The researchers used chambers to track the progress of the plants. They're able to replicate different types of environmental effects like drought and heat waves.

His team wants to pinpoint specific genes that are important for desert plants' survival and then put those genes in other crops. It's research that would reach much further than North Texas.

While no plants are completely resistant to these extreme conditions, Mittler said even a slight improvement could have monumental effects.

"Even a 10 percent improvement in yield production will save billions of dollars, but we are looking for more than the slightest, we are trying to save those crops," he said.

Farmers say this would revolutionize the way they work. It would give crops a boost in their battle against Mother Nature.

Mittler's research is not likely to be done anytime soon. He said it could take more than 10 years to finish the research and get a product on the market.

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