Olomouc Research into the Impact of Climate Change on Plants Makes International Waves

Pranav Sahu with his award.
Photo: R. Kvasničková
thursday 9. may 2019, 8:00 – Text: R. Kvasničková, M. Šaradínová

Pranav Sahu, a scientist from the Olomouc branch of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences was awarded in India for his research into plants and their reactions to climate change. His work was awarded second place at a symposium of the European Molecular Biology Organization, which took place on 15-17 April 2019 in Delhi.

The conference, attended by approximately 150 scientists from all over the world, was aimed at sharing the newest findings in research into abiotic stress and its impact on plants. Pranav Sahu, working in the Centre of Structural and Functional Plant Genomics of the Institute of Experimental Botany, part of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research, is delighted about the award. What pleases him even more is that his research will be directly reflected in practice, as well as the fact that he had the opportunity to deliver a lecture on his research specifically in India. “I come from India, and I considered it important to provide information on the results of my research here, since India is also already suffering from climate change: the average temperature has been rising and there has been a greater risk of droughts and floods. I am glad that our study has aroused interest and I hope it will inspire other colleagues.”

Pranav Sahu’s work focuses on thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) and its growth under simulated conditions, reflecting possible climate changes in Europe and Northern Africa between 2020 and 2050. There are no similar data available so far. The head of the work group where Pranav Sahu works, Aleš Pečinka, emphasises that this information is very important and will help us prepare for the upcoming climate change efficiently and in time. “We are glad that our results will serve scientists as well as breeders. Some interesting and unexpected results have already occurred. For instance, the existing data indicates that the higher concentration of CO2 may result in plants growing better and more quickly in Europe in 2050 compared to the current situation. Our analyses, however, also demonstrate that the key aspect will be their irrigation. It will be necessary to breed plants economically in terms of water and capable of enduring droughts. Farmers will need to start using other strains, and we will have to learn how to manage water in nature more efficiently in general,” said Aleš Pečinka from the Olomouc laboratory of the Institute of Experimental Botany.

In contrast, North Africa will face an entirely different and much more difficult situation, as plants will not prosper there due to drought and heat. Apart from these findings, Olomouc scientists succeeded in identifying certain genes determining specific features and qualities of plants: “One of them is for instance the pigment contents – i.e. the colour agents able to bond free radicals and thus positively influence our health. Our research confirms that some pigments can protect even the plants themselves,” explains Sahu. 

The research shall be finished next year, but according to Pečinka, there are new challenges already awaiting the scientists: “For example, we want to find out how some particular species of cereal crops will do in the future, and we would also like to allow the plants to grow under more varied conditions.” Sahu adds that without the facilities and equipment available to him in the Czech Republic, he would not be able to implement his research. “In Olomouc, I have everything I need to work very efficiently and achieve results I deem important because they are related to food security assurance. My research would also not be possible without the utilisation of the special growth chambers at the Global Change Research Institute in Brno. I would therefore like to thank all of my colleagues and the heads of both the institutes under the auspices of  Czech Academy of Sciences,” said Sahu.