How light and temperature work together to affect plant growth: Plants lengthen and bend to secure access to sunlight. Despite observing this phenomenon for centuries, scientists do not fully understand it.
Now, Salk scientists have discovered that two plant factors—the protein PIF7 and the growth hormone auxin—are the triggers that accelerate growth when plants are shaded by canopy and exposed to warm temperatures at the same time. The findings, published in Nature Communications will help scientists predict how plants will respond to climate change—and increase crop productivity despite the yield-harming global temperature rise.
“Right now, we grow crops in certain densities, but our findings indicate that we will need to lower these densities to optimize growth as our climate changes,” says senior author Professor Joanne Chory, director of Salk’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Understanding the molecular basis of how plants respond to light and temperature will allow us to fine-tune crop density in a specific way that leads to the best yields.”