Grantham Scholar

Ligia Bertolino

Increasing temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions are expected to have adverse impacts on food production this century. Rice is extremely sensitive to heat stress and under global warming, much of the world’s rice crop will experience damaging temperatures. This project, which will be developed in collaboration with The International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, will investigate whether the manipulation of stomatal density could become a viable route towards developing thermotolerant rice cultivars.

Transpiration rates are regulated by stomatal pores in plant leaves and other aerial surfaces. High levels of water loss through stomata can enhance plant evaporative cooling. This mechanism helps plants to maintain their tissue temperature below the critical, avoiding heat stress. In this project, the response of plants that were genetically modified to have more stomata will be tested under heat stress conditions. Furthermore, genetic loci naturally associated with enhanced rice stomatal density will be identified through a genome-wide analysis study , and the role of candidate genes in the regulation of stomatal development tested.