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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Israel Discovers Salinity Resistant Plant Gene

(Hat Tip: Israpundit)

Another reason why planet Earth is blessed by our kosher brethren. Israeli scientists have discovered a gene that could allow farming in marshes and other lands not suitable for growing crops.

(Israel 21st Century) [...] Israeli researchers from the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, have succeeded in isolating a gene that withstands salinity.

"The research will contribute to a significant increase in the amount of arable land available for agriculture," said the institute's director Professor Eviatar Nevo, who initiated and spearheaded the pioneering research.

Of the earth's 57 million square miles of land, approximately 12 million square miles are arable - meaning land that can be used for growing crops. However, arable land is being lost at the rate of over ten million hectares per year.

The gene is from a fungus that lives in the Dead Sea--an area ten times saltier than the oceans themselves. They have already been experimenting on injecting the gene into yeast with successful results, and hopefully will be able to expand that research into other plant organisms.

(Israel 21st Century) The gene was introduced into 'saccharomyces cerevisiae' - better known as baker's yeast - and the team observed that resultant transgenic yeast was able to tolerate more salt than normal, especially in resisting large temperature changes. [...]

"The gene helps the fungus to balance the internal salt content of the cell through the production of the alcohol glycerol and thus prevents the fungus from drying out and helps it defend itself against salinity," said Nevo.

"I expected the gene transformation to increase the salt tolerance of the yeast. But the tolerance to high and low temperatures proved to be a surprise," he added.

This discovery has the potential of ending world hunger--or at least removing the excuse of not farming land too salty for crops. This would allow nations to grow fields of wheat next to oceans (a strange site for the human eye) and may also allow nations devastated by environmental trauma to be able to grow most of their own food instead of relying on imports for survival.

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