A stress response is an adverse reaction experienced by a plant due to an abiotic factor, such as high salinity, which a plant may encounter in its environment. Since plant organisms are sessile, unlike animals, they are unable to remove themselves independently from an environment experiencing multiple abiotic stressors and unfortunately, this has detrimental effects on a plant's growth and development.
Abiotic stressors include factors such as very cold or hot temperatures, drought, salinity, or oxidative stress. In different environments some of these stresses are more prevalent than others. For example, soil salinity is currently a major concern for agricultural lands which has resulted from rigorous farming practices applied by the agricultural industry. The combination of the compaction of high level machinery degrading soil and the evaporation of irrigation water has left soils polluted with high levels of salt in many places around the world (1).
Over the past few decades, advancements in genetic engineering have been made in attempts to create transgenic crops to survive in extreme environments and prevail under stressful conditions. Much of this research has focused on discovering and expressing particular genes found in plants which are able to function even under stress. For example, research on salinity stress has been conducted using Arabidopsis plants and has been centered on the SOS pathway which is central to salt tolerance.
Evidently, stress responses are a leading factor in limiting plant growth. This has large consequences for humanity, both in terms of limiting available food supplies and economic prosperity. Unfortunately, it is the fault of humanity that some of these stressors have become such a grave concern. However, hopefully through continued scientific research more genes will become discovered which can lead to the development of transgenic plants able to overcome the impacts of these abiotic stressors.
- Banwart, S. (2011). Save our soils. Nature, 474, 151-152.