Jovaras’ goal is to generate an engineered BLINK1 (blue light activated synthetic potassium channel) and related optogenetic tools into guard cells and the surrounding epidermal cells of agronomically important crops such as barley and Brassica, to transfer the achievements observed in Arabidopsis.
Water use efficiency (WUE) is defined as the amount of carbon assimilated as biomass or grain produced per unit of water used by the crop.
This process is negatively affected by increasing temperatures, more variable precipitation and variations in humidity. These changes in climate will increase atmospheric water demand by crops and increase the potential for limitations in soil water availability.
Collaborators at Glasgow University have demonstrated that that BLINK1 expression in Arabidopsis accelerated stomatal response to changing light conditions improved plant WUE and enhances photosynthetic yield.
Stomata exert a major control on the water and carbon cycles of the world, and their activity in crops has been a key factor in global atmospheric modelling and weather prediction for over a quarter of a century.
Stomatal transpiration is at the centre of a crisis in water availability and crop production that is expected to unfold over the next 20-30 years. If stomatal responses can be accelerated to better match light intensity changes in crops, there is a real prospect for improving WUE concurrent with enhanced yields.