Public Release:  Sowing a future for peas

Norwich BioScience Institutes

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Credit: John Innes Center

New research from the John Innes Centre and the Central Science Laboratory could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change. The research also shows that the composition of crops is likely to change with the climate.

"While many compounds have been reported to change in laboratory based drought stress experiments, few have identified how such compounds change in crops under field conditions," says Dr Claire Domoney of the John Innes Centre.

The researchers used NMR spectroscopy to produce a profile of the levels of all the different small molecules or metabolites in pea plant leaves. This profile, known as the metabolome, was then compared with that from plants subjected to controlled drought stress. The study found several key plant metabolites increased under drought stress, some of which had not previously been shown to be involved.

Less water, especially at critical times in the growing season, means lower yield and quality. This new information could be used to identify varieties of pea and other pulse crops that are more tolerant to changes in water availability.

Drought stress also induced changes in compounds that could have an impact on taste and flavour. Changes in climate are likely to alter the characteristics of commercial crops and could possibly affect their value. Peas and other legumes make a valuable contribution to sustainable food production by fixing nitrogen in the soil for the next crop, reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer.

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Contacts:

JIC Press Office

Zoe Dunford, Tel: 01603 255111, email: zoe.dunford@bbsrc.ac.uk
Andrew Chapple, Tel: 01603 251490, email: andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

  • Full reference: Responses of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) leaf metabolome to drought stress assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Metabolomics December 2008 4(4)

  • The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences with over 800 staff. JIC is based on Norwich Research Park and carries out high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains scientists and students, collaborates with many other research laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general public. The JIC is grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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