ABA INSENSITIVE GROWTH 1 (ABIG1) causes the stomata on leaves to close up under drought stress to prevent evaporation.


Photo credit: Here by design

Have you ever driven by a cornfield during a prolonged period of drought and asked yourself ‘How do these plants survive?’ Well it turns out scientists have uncovered a protein in plants that holds the key to why some survive and others don’t. It’s called ABA INSENSITIVE GROWTH 1 (ABIG1) and it may determine the future of plant growth in an increasingly waterless world.

Scientists Uncover Key To Helping Plants Cope With Drought

What is ABA?

ABA, or abscisic acid, is a hormone involved in many crucial plant developmental processes. During periods of drought, it triggers a number of water conserving strategies. ABA is what causes the pores on leaves to close up under stress (to prevent evaporation) and it slows growth when plants are struggling to draw water from the soil. ABA is also the agent that causes leaves to turn yellow and drop from the plant.

For some time, scientists have known that plants that are resistant to ABA are bad at coping with drought since they lack these vital survival mechanisms. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science in California have recently discovered that, when water is scarce, a subset of ABA-resistant plants actually grow better than their non resistant cousins.

“When breeders are looking for plants able to withstand drought, they discount those resistant to ABA, but our findings show that a subset of ABA-resistant plants may be a great source of drought tolerance,” Professor Kathryn Barton from Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology in California told elife, who published the story.



Scientists arrived at this conclusion after conducting an experiment. They grew plants with and without the protein ABA and watered them for 34 days.

Read the full article: Here by Design

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.