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Gracilaria dura extract confers drought tolerance in wheat by modulating abscisic acid homeostasis

Sharma, Sandeep, Chen, Chen, Khatri, Kusum, Rathore, Mangal S., Pandey, Shree P.
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2019 v.136 pp. 143-154
Gracilaria, abscisic acid, agroecology, biomass, biosynthesis, crop yield, drought, drought tolerance, fluridone, genes, greenhouses, homeostasis, mechanism of action, plant extracts, stomatal movement, stress tolerance, sustainable agriculture, water content, water stress, wheat
Water stress severely reduces the production of wheat. Application of seaweed extracts have started to show promise in protecting plants from environmental stresses as they contain several biostimulants. However, the modes of action of these biostimulants are not clear. Here, we investigated the role of Gracilaria dura (GD), a red alga, in conferring stress tolerance to wheat during drought under glasshouse and agro-ecological conditions by integrating molecular studies with physiological and field investigations. GD-sap application conferred drought tolerance (as the biomass increased by up to 57% and crop yield by 70%), via facilitating physiological changes associated to maintaining higher water content. GD-sap application significantly increased ABA accumulation (2.34 and 1.46 fold at 4 and 6 days of drought, respectively) due to enhanced expression of biosynthesis genes. This followed an activation of ABA response genes and physiological processes including reduced stomatal opening, thus reducing water loss. Moreover, GD-sap application enhanced the expression of stress-protective genes specifically under water stress. Treatment with fluridone, an ABA inhibitor, further support the role of ABA in GD-sap mediated drought tolerance in wheat. The findings of this study provide insights into the functional role of GD-sap in improving drought tolerance and show the potential to commercialize GD-sap as a potent biostimulant for sustainable agriculture in regions prone to drought.