The ability to capture water in a competitive environment and transport the water to areas of need within the plant can enhance drought tolerance in plants. An increase in the number of water-transporting cells will increase the overall water transport capacity of the plant and make it more competitive in a water-limited environment.
SDSU researchers have recently reported on the discovery of a regulatory RNA and a regulatory protein that can be over-expressed in the roots of soybeans to increase the number of water-transporting xylem cells. This over-expression also changes the composition of two different xylem cell types in the root.
Current approaches have focused primarily on limiting the damage due to drought. An increase in water transport capacity will allow for sustaining growth under limited water conditions and will not compromise yield under water-sufficient conditions.