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Identification of traits conferring abiotic stress tolerance in crops and model plants

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Salinity is one of the most severe abiotic factors threatening agriculture worldwide.

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Salinity is one of the most severe abiotic factors threatening agriculture worldwide. The occurrence is natural or arose from clearing and irrigation of cultivated land. Since food production will be forced to meet the demands of a growing world population, improving the level of crop salinity tolerance is a growing global priority.

The effect of salinity on plant growth is due to the combination of osmotic stress and toxicity of cations and anions. The former inhibits the uptake of water, generating a syndrome which has much in common with drought stress. Ions accumulating to toxic levels are taken up by roots and dispersed throughout the plant through the xylem to the leaf. High cellular concentrations of ions tend to induce the production of reactive oxygen species, which damage cell membranes, proteins and ultimately DNA. Salinity tolerance is understood to be polygenically controlled. The genes identified to date as important for bolstering salinity tolerance control the ionic uptake and transport, act as protectants against osmotic stress and are involved in signaling. The domestication-driven selection for yield has reduced genetic variation for salinity tolerance in most crop species and exploitation of natural biodiversity proves to be a valuable tool for crop improvement. This project aims at utilizing natural genetic diversity in crops and model plants to identify traits conferring salt tolerance.

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