When temperatures rise, plants grow taller in order to cool themselves off, the study says.
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09.02.2018

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Global warming affects more than just plant biodiversity - it even alters the way plants grow. German scientists studied the mechanisms that control plant growth at high temperatures. In the future this could help breed plants that are adapted to global warming.

A team of researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in Halle/Germany joined forces with the German Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry (IPB) to discover which molecular processes are involved in plant growth in relation to increasing temperatures.

The study shows that plants react much more sensitively to fluctuations in temperature than animals. They are also unable to seek out warmer or cooler locations.

"When temperatures rise, plants grow taller in order to cool themselves off. Their stalks become taller and their leaves become narrower and grow farther apart. Yet this makes the plant more instable overall," explains Professor Marcel Quint, an agricultural scientist at MLU. This is noticeable, for example, during grain harvesting. Instable plants bend faster in the rain and generally produce less biomass. There is also a reduction in the proportion of key substances, like proteins, that can be stored in the grain kernel.

Open questions: The role of the protein PIF4

While the correlation between temperature and plant growth at the macro-level is relatively well understood, there are still many open questions at the molecular level.

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