Menachem Moshelion, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Date: 15th March 2017

Time: 13:15

Title: Cellular mechanisms controlling plants water management: risk taking strategies under uncertain environment

Location: Lecture room 4, Viikki B building, Latokartanonkaari 7-9

Host: Alan Schulman

Abstract: The continuing growth of the world’s population and the desire to improve the standard of living have led to an increase in the demand for food and the interest in optimal utilization of natural resources needed for agriculture. Breeding programs have led to significant increases in crop yields, but these new, high-yielding cultivars often require increased amounts of water and are highly sensitive to drought and other forms of environmental stress. In recent years, a great deal of resources have been invested in trying to make these plants less sensitive to environmental stress, so that they can be grown in even more challenging areas. But, so far, these efforts have not had much success. In my talk, I will describe the molecular, cellular, vascular and whole-plant mechanisms involved in plant water-balance management. I will elaborate on the differences between a "conservative" mechanism that improves the likelihood of plant survival, as well as “riskier” mechanisms that enhance rapid growth under optimal conditions, but may leave the plant particularly vulnerable to stress conditions. I will describe a novel high-throughput functional (physiological) phenotyping system designed to characterize many of the early components of a plant’s response to biotic and abiotic stress. This simple, yet effective experimental platform is based on a gravimetric system combined with a unique irrigation-drainage system and several soil and atmospheric probes. This system enables tight control of multiple soil water/salinity scenarios, as well as the continuous monitoring of soil–plant–atmosphere water relations. Use of this experimental platform for the comparative physiological characterization of several crop cultivars, as well as WT populations, has revealed the existence of several plant stress-response strategies that we have classified according to their relative “conservative” (isohydric-like) or “risk-taking” (anisohydric-like) character. I will demonstrate the risk-management strategies of perennial and annual wild plants (pine and wild barley, respectively) growing in semi-arid areas and discuss a case study of a “calculated risk-taking” trait that can be used as a marker for the selection of abiotic stress tolerance and resilient crop plants.

Menachem Moshelion is a molecular physiologist interested in elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling whole-plant water-homeostasis, crop productivity, and forest trees survival under normal and abiotic stress conditions. His research mainly focuses in small membrane proteins which function as water channels – Aquaporins (AQPs). The research hypothesis is that AQPs might be good candidates for controlling the plant's osmotic and hydraulic conductivity, and since some AQPs have been reported to conduct CO2, there was a strong likelihood that they could be used to improve osmotic stress tolerance and Water-Use Efficiency in plants (Our agricultural model plant is tomato (Solanum lycopersicom).

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