In the world of gardening and farming, the most important question is “How long can we continue farming?” It seems like a pretty benign question with a simple answer, but not so anymore. We now live in a shifting climate and even the small (mini-farmer) must be aware of some the techniques and technology that is being used to keep the food production going.
Climate change is causing all types of problems for the agricultural world. Mainly drought. It is happening more and more around the world. Areas are getting less water and this is demanding an answer either through changes to help stave off drought conditions or through scientific methods that can withstand the heat of drought.
Resurrection crops may be here to save the day, but are they safe? Lets talk a little but first about what they are.
Much like the name, resurrection crops come back from the dead. Now, of course, they aren’t completely dead, but they come close to it. In the red hills of South Africa, some plants are thriving in the harshest conditions. Some say they have adapted to the environment and have learned how to go with little to no water but simply coming back from the dead after drought conditions. So, what is causing these plants to miraculously come back from the dead?
The difference is Metabolism
There are all types of plants on earth. There are plants that needed watering on a consistent basis or they will die. This is the first level where the plants are delicate and require a lot of maintenance and upkeep. The next few levels are “drought resistance plants” which have the ability to store water for drought seasons or are able to deepen their root system in search for water. These are not immune to everything and this does have limited — so there are different levels of drought resistance. The last level are resurrection plants. these are plants that can old less than 0.1g of water per 1g of dry mass. This is obviously impressive as most plants would not be able to sustain such a shortage.
These resurrection plants are able to do this through changing their metabolism. when the plant senses there is a drought, they will instruct their metabolism to be diverted to the production of sugars. during the first phase, it will resemble a honey, then a rubber and finally a glass type of structure. This glass structure is the most stable state of metabolism that the plant can maintain. This glass-like state mainly helps to preserve delicate tissue structures that help to maintain life. On top of changing their metabolisms, these plants will also shrink in size to help further maintain the structure of their tissues and reduce demand for water.
Genetic modified plants
Most of you can see where this is all heading. To help stave off a massive shortage of food during climatic shift which include drought, we must look for viable options. Now, this doesnt mean that we have to automatically turn to GMO’s, however GMO’s are part of the strategy to find the way that fits best. All of this testing is currently being done in a lab, so far. However, with genome studies, scientist are confident they will find the sequence they are looking for make many well known crops into resurrection crops.
The study is also using other methods such as conventional methods to produce viable offspring as well as gene editing. One thing they do know already about what these types of crop might look like is that they will not be high yield. these types of crops were designed for very extreme conditions, not like Iowa. It is a viable solution, right now, for farmers in the toughest conditions in Africa. This could be something that could help save many of the people in Africa from starvation.
Are Resurrection Plants Safe?
There are many resurrection plants out there such as The Rose of Jericho or Kaf Mariam plant that can be safe for many types of herbal tea applications but can be detrimental to pregnant woman and their unborn fetus. There are many herbal plants that are classified as resurrection plants and because of their alternate form of metabolism, caution must be used whenever using them in healing or spiritual concoctions.
As far as common agricultural plants, we do not currently have resurrection plants yet for mass produce for the public but when we do, we should have some caution when eating them. I would recommend that if it is not absolutely necessary, then dont so it or consume it. Of course, this is my advice for almost everything.