Journal of Biotechnology & Biomaterials
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Food insecurity is high in arid and semiarid regions of the planet because of limiting soil nutrients
and water scarcity. This low and inconsistent productivity stems from marginal soils, frequent
drought, biotic stress, and lack of access to agrichemical inputs, including fertilizers. These limitations
are often overcome with irrigation and large annual applications of fertilizers. However, nutrient
uptake efficiencies are low (i.e., about 50% and 25% for N and P, respectively). The strategy of the
first Green Revolution was to increase yield through the selection of plants that thrive in the presence
of abundant water and large amounts of fertilizers. However, as resources become increasingly
limited, yield and quality need to be increased with a minimum input of water, and agrochemicals.
A sine qua non requirement for a new generation of crops is extended root systems. Our group and
others have shown that up-regulation of the H+-PPase results in rice, corn, barley, tomato, lettuce,
cotton, and forages with increased root and shoot biomass compared to controls. Larger root systems
explain the drought tolerance and nutrient use efficiencies displayed by our engineered lines. Our
working hypothesis postulates that the up-regulation of H+-PPases augments phloem sucrose loading and transport capacity.
More efficient sucrose transport to sink organs in H+-PPase overexpressing plants explains the larger and more energized root
systems with higher water and nutrient-uptake capacities. In summary, with this simple genetic manipulation it is possible to
optimize carbon partitioning and trigger agriculturally relevant phenotypes that would allow small farmers to grow crops more
reliably in marginal soils with minimal expensive inputs. For large producers, it would allow for high production at a fraction
of the economic and environmental costs. Our ultimate goal is to develop crops that can utilize soil nutrients and water more
effectively than current cultivars. These water and nutrient use efficient crops hold the promise of alleviating hunger in much
of the arid and semiarid regions of our planet.
Roberto Gaxiola is an Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences, Cellular and Molecular Biosciences group, Arizona State University from 2007 to present. He
was an Assistant Professor, Plant Molecular Genetics Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut. 2000 - 2007 and a visiting Scientist in the laboratory
of Dr. Gerald R. Fink at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (MIT), 1995 - 1999. From 1993 - 1995 he was Associated Researcher ?C? Plant Molecular
Biology Department, Instituto de Biotecnologia, UNAM Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico and Postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Ramon Serrano at the
Department of Biotechnology, University of Valencia, Spain. 1992 - 1993. He did his PhD ?Isolation and characterization of genes of the yeast Saccharomyces
cerevisiae involved in salt tolerance mechanisms, Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg.1988- 1991.
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