The world's population is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, requiring 70% more food than current population levels. If this were not enough, recurrent droughts caused by climate change have begun to play havoc with food production globally.
Molecular physiologist Jill Farrant of the University of Cape Town says the solution lies with resurrection plants. There are over 100 varieties of these plants being investigated. Their common factor is that they can survive extreme dehydration by taking on a dormant form during dry periods, and spring back to life within 12 to 48 hours of getting water.
Farrant's research focuses on the environmental and cellular signals that allow certain genes in the resurrection plants to activate and allow them to survive in drought conditions. These genes are present in all plants, and understanding them may be a key to enabling staple crops such as maize, rice and wheat to survive droughts.
Other drought-resistant plants are also under investigation to help provide food security in Africa.