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Crops can be grown in Arsenic contaminated soil without being poisonous

  • · Arsenic (As) is a cancer causing chemical found in soil and water all over the world, but particularly in Bangladesh and north-eastern parts of India
  • · Arsenic gets absorbed by plant roots and can go up the shoot to the edible part of the crop
  • · Researchers at the University of Warwick are working on ways to contribute to developing safe crops which can be grown in As contaminated soil but reduce the amount of As going to the edible part.

On World Soil day 2018 (5th December) the University of Warwick looks at ongoing research into the growing of crops in Arsenic contaminated soil without the edible part of the plant being effected.Dr Mohan TC, University of Warwick

Arsenic in soil is a worldwide problem. The chemical is carcinogenic and is naturally found in water supplies and soil particularly in Bangladesh and the north-eastern part of India.

Arsenate is the most abundant form of arsenic and is structurally similar to phosphate. Therefore, it is easily incorporated in to plant cells through phosphate uptake pathway – the process of the roots absorbing nutrients.

However when a plant absorbs Arsenic it can translocate it up to the edible part of the plant – ultimately arsenic enters food chain.

Plants have an inherent capacity to cope with arsenic stress by producing metal-chelating peptides called phyochelatins (PCs).

PCs detoxify the arsenic and restrict the movement of arsenic in the roots. Which in turn helps to reduce the root-to-shoot translocation of Arsenic. Phyochelatins are therefore essential in trapping the arsenic absorbed by the plant in the roots.

Scientists at the University of Warwick wanted to make plants with more phytochelatins in the roots, to stop any of the arsenic escaping and travelling up the shoot to the edible part of the plant.

This is being done by making transgenic plants with reduced cytokinin hormone in the roots. Which means phytochelatin is boosted and can detoxify and hold more arsenic in the root.Dr Mohan TC, University of Warwick

Dr Mohan TC, from Dr Alex Jones Laboratory, School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick is doing this pilot study in transgenic Barley, and is now looking at doing it in rice plants thanks to funding from the Medical and Life Sciences Research Fund (MLSRF), UK.

He comments:

“To stop the cancer causing arsenic entry into the food chain, it is essential to develop safe crops, through restricting the translocation of arsenic to edible part.
In our current project, we are trying to manipulate cytokinin hormone in rice plants through genetic engineering and we expect to increase the roots detoxification capacity of the transgenic rice.”

ENDS

5 DECEMBER 2018

NOTES TO EDITORS

High res images available at:

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About the School of Life Sciences

https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/research/plantcropsci

http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/171/2/1418.long

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Alice Scott
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476574255 or 07920531221
E-mail: alice.j.scott@warwick.ac.uk

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Alice Scott
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: 02476574255 or 07920531221
E-mail: alice dot j dot scott at warwick dot ac dot uk