Scientists say purslane is a “SUPER PLANT” that holds the key to drought-tolerant crops.

Not so much of a pest! Purslane is a “SUPER PLANT” that holds the key to drought-tolerant crops, scientists say.

  • Purslane is a common weed that many people struggle with in their gardens.
  • The plant is able to tolerate drought, while remaining highly productive.
  • In a new study, the researchers found that the plant combines two different metabolic pathways to create a new type of photosynthesis.

Purslane can be a nightmare for keen gardeners, but a new study may make you think twice about getting rid of the weed.

Yale researchers say purslane could be a “super plant” that holds the key to drought-tolerant crops.

In their study, the researchers found that the plant combines two different metabolic pathways to create a new type of photosynthesis.

This allows the weed to tolerate drought while remaining highly productive.

“This is a very rare combination of traits that has created a kind of ‘superplant’ that could potentially be useful in endeavors such as crop production,” said Professor Erica Edwards, senior author of the study.

Purslane can be a nightmare for keen gardeners, but a new study may make you think twice about getting rid of the weed.

What is purslane?

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an edible, deciduous, hardy plant widely used as a condiment and salad vegetable.

The fleshy reddish stems are densely covered with lobed green or golden leaves, depending on the variety, and grow to 15-20 cm in height.

Purslane grows quickly from seed and the leaves are ready to be harvested in 6-8 weeks.

Source: World of gardeners.

Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.

Over time, different species have independently evolved a number of different mechanisms to improve this process.

For example, corn and sugar cane have evolved “C4 photosynthesis” which allows them to remain productive at high temperatures.

Meanwhile, cacti and agaves have evolved “CAM photosynthesis” which allows them to thrive in areas with little water.

Although C4 and CAM have different functions, they both use the same biochemical pathway to act as “additions” to basic photosynthesis.

Previous research has shown that purslane has both C4 and CAM adaptations, allowing the plant to be productive and resilient during drought.

Until now, however, C4 and CAM have been thought to act independently within leaves.

In their new study, the researchers showed that C4 and CAM activity is fully integrated into purslane.

In their study, the researchers found that the plant combines two different metabolic pathways to create a new type of photosynthesis.  This allows the weed to tolerate drought while remaining highly productive.

In their study, the researchers found that the plant combines two different metabolic pathways to create a new type of photosynthesis. This allows the weed to tolerate drought while remaining highly productive.

The researchers studied gene expression in purslane leaves and found that C4 and CAM act in the same cells, and CAM reaction products are processed directly into the C4 pathway.

The researchers hope the findings will help pave the way for drought-tolerant crops in the future.

“In terms of developing a CAM cycle for a C4 crop such as maize, there is still a lot of work to be done before this becomes a reality,” Professor Edwards explained.

“But we have shown that these two paths can be effectively integrated and share products.

“C4 and CAM are more compatible than we thought, which makes us suspect that there are many more C4 + CAM species waiting to be discovered.”

The study is being conducted in the UK, which is experiencing its driest conditions since the 1976 drought.

Unfortunately, with office warned of “very little significant rain” on the horizon – with conditions now so extreme that a hose ban, affecting one million people in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, will go into effect today at 5 p.m.

The Met Office says it’s too early to tell how long the hot spell will last.

However, it is reassuring that “there are signs of a return to more volatile conditions from around mid-August.”

HOW DOES PHOTOSYNTHESIS WORK?

Photosynthesis is a chemical process used by plants to convert light energy and carbon dioxide into glucose for plant growth, while releasing oxygen.

The leaves of green plants contain hundreds of pigment molecules (chlorophyll, etc.) that absorb light at certain wavelengths.

When light of the appropriate wavelength hits one of these molecules, the molecule goes into an excited state, and the energy from that excited state travels down the chain of pigment molecules until it reaches a certain type of chlorophyll in the photosynthetic reaction center.

Here, the energy is used to drive the charge separation process necessary for photosynthesis to take place.

The electron “hole” left in the chlorophyll molecule is used to “split” water into oxygen.

The hydrogen ions produced during the water splitting process are ultimately used to convert carbon dioxide into glucose energy, which the plant uses to grow.