Three Groups in New Delhi address the problem of solving edible plant biotic and abiotic stress. The Plant Insect Interaction Group (Nair) studies the interaction of the rice plant with the Asian rice gall midge, an insect responsible for considerable yield loss for farmers in Asia and Africa. The Plant RNAi Biology Group (Sanan- Mishra) is interested in elucidating the RNA interference mechanisms operative in rice plants in response to increasing soil salinity, high temperature and virus infection, all conditions of particular importance due to current climate change.
The Plant Stress Biology Group (Singla-Pareek) develops genetic solutions to solve the problems posed in agriculture by the abiotic stress caused by salinity and drought. In particular, the Group modifies rice plants with several genes that reduce cellular toxicity, permitting plants to grow in soils with high levels of salt and metal ions and low levels of water.
The groups working in plant resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses continued to make excellent advances during 2017. The Plant RNAi Biology Group in New Delhi identified an intriguing cross-talk between miRNA-trans-acting-siRNA in the regulation of seed germination in Arabidopsis (Sarkar Das et al., 2017, Sci. Rep., 8, 1233). This has important implications for our understanding of factors regulating seed germination.
The Plant Stress Biology Group made the interesting discovery that the metabolite methyglyoxal plays a critical role in linking abiotic and biotic stress responses in plants with glyoxalase overexpression imparting tolerance to a whole variety of different stresses (Gupta et al., 2017, Plant Cell Environ., 10 12968). This work forms an invaluable basis for further studies aiming to expand rice crop cultivatable areas.