Plant roots change shape and branch out for water

  • 20.11.2022
  • Science Daily

Researchers have discovered how plant roots adapt their shape to maximise their uptake of water, pausing branching when they lose contact with water and only resuming once they reconnect with moisture, ensuring they can survive even in the driest conditions.

Plant scientists from the University of Nottingham have discovered a novel water sensing mechanism that they have called 'Hydro-Signalling', which shows how hormone movement is linked with water fluxes. The findings have been published today in Science.

Water is the rate-limiting molecule for life on earth. The devastating impact of climate change is enhancing the effects of water stress on global agriculture. Climate change is causing rainfall patterns to become more erratic, impacting rain-fed crops in particular.

Roots play a critical role to reduce the impact of water stress on plants by adapting their shape (such as branching or growing deeper) to secure more water. Discovering how plant roots sense and adapt to water stress is vital importance for helping 'future proof' crops to enhance their climate resilience.