Antarctic endophytes improve drought tolerance in lettuce plants

Antarctic root-endophytes were collected from plants such as Colobanthus quitensis, seen here growing on the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Photo credit: Marco Molina Montenegro.

Climate change has limited the availability of water for irrigating crops throughout many regions of the world. Indeed, current models of climate change predict that arid and semi-arid zones will be places where precipitation will drastically decrease. In this context plant root-associated fungi from ecosystems currently subjected to severe drought conditions could improve the ecophysiological performance and quantum yield of crops exposed to drought. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Molina-Montenegro et al. evaluated how the inoculation of fungal endophytes isolated from Antarctic plants can improve the net photosynthesis, water use efficiency and production of fresh biomass in a lettuce cultivar, grown under different water availability regimes. Such application of Antarctic root-endophytes to different crops could be a biotechnological tool for food security.