Genetics are not our limiting factor. The mineral nutrients that are in the soil, which are the building blocks, are the limiting factors in producing quality andstress resistant crops.
I believe that plants have the opportunity and the genetics to consistently far out-norm what we accept to be normal. Just because something is common doesn’t necessarily mean that this is normal, and all that a plant is capable of producing.
What we have learned about plant structure and mineral nutrition has tremendous implications for stress and drought tolerance.
Plants receive different types of stress throughout a growing season. There will be stress from drought, from excess of moisture, or disease and insect stress. However, the concept which is quite interesting, is that many of these stress factors and the influence that they can have on crop yields is directly dependent on that plant’s overall heath, which is a function of mineral nutrition.
So what is possible under drought conditions? I’ve said before that I don’t believe we really know what truly healthy plants really look like anymore. We see this once we begin providing healthy nutrition to a variety of crops. The plant quality and yield increases dramatically when the plant has the essential minerals needed for growth.
So we have tremendous possibilities in enabling plants to resist drought stress and low moisture stress in a variety of ways.
One of the first keys is lipid formation. Lipids are basically plant fats and oils.
The reason this is key is because as plants increase the level of fat or lipid concentration in the plant tissue, that lipid concentration is directly connected to cell membrane strength and permeability. So when the plants have thicker cell membranes from higher lipid concentrations, they don’t lose moisture nearly as readily. In maintaining moisture inside the cell, we don’t get that dehydration happening and we reduce the amount of potential stress that could occur.
A second major key that is directly involved in lipid formation and in overall plant health and drought stresses is microbial symbiosis. This means having a strong symbiotic relationship with microbial communities in the soil rhizosphere. This microbial symbiosis is critical for a number of factors, including the capacity of microbes to extract nutrients and water from the soil in very dry conditions which plant root hairs cannot access by themselves, and finally, of course, having a strong, vigorous root system.
Having a strong, large root system that can reach further down into the soil and potentially access moisture reserves that are deeper down is dependent on that microbial symbiosis and good mineral nutrition from the moment that seed germinates.