UC Riverside plant cell biologist Sean Cutler and others are researching how to engineer plants to make them more able to tolerate drought. Initial research is promising, although Cutler says the work needs to be tested in field settings. The findings were published in Nature.

After modifying tomatoes and other plants by adding a new piece of genetic code to their DNA, the plants were able to retain more water and survive for longer periods without irrigation.

Deborah Netburn (@DeborahNetburn) reports for the Los Angeles Times:

“Cutler said the work now needs to be tested in real-world crops. His team will also investigate other beneficial responses in plants that could be controlled chemically. Eventually, he hopes these techniques can help address future water shortage issues.”