Genetic switch offers clue to why grasses are survival masters | Science News

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Genetic switch offers clue to why grasses are survival masters

Cooperation among stomata cells means the plants can respond quickly to change

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3:35pm, March 20, 2017
Brachypodium distachyon

STOMATA SUPERSTARS  Scientists have gained new insight into why grasses like Brachypodium distachyon have extra-efficient stomata, adjustable pores on leaves that help regulate the exchange of water and gases between a leaf and the outside world. 

Grasses have top-notch border control to conserve water in their leaves. Now, scientists have identified the genetic switch that makes them such masters at taking in carbon dioxide without losing water. The find might eventually help scientists create more drought-resistant crop plants, the researchers report in the March 17 Science.  

Adjustable pores called stomata on the undersides of leaves help plants take in CO2 while minimizing water loss. Like pupils responding to sunlight, plants open and close their stomata in response to changing light, humidity and temperature. Grass stomata can open wider and respond more quickly than those in other plants, which helps grasses photosynthesize more efficiently.

This ability might help explain why grasses grow successfully in so many places on Earth, says Brent Helliker, a plant ecologist at the University of Pennsylvania who wasn’t part of the new study. For instance, grasses are particularly well equipped

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