Scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have discovered
two enzymes that explain the sensitivity of wheat plants to salty soils.
The UWA research describes the two wheat enzymes which are especially
sensitive to salt and appear to be the weak link leading to plant death in
saline soils. The researchers also discovered wheat has a natural defense
system that can bypass one of the sensitive enzymes, partially protecting
The bypass system, called the 'GABA shunt', allows wheat plants to stop
using one of their salt-sensitive enzymes when threatened by salinity.
However, the resistance provided by the GABA shunt also appears to be
limited, and is overpowered by especially saline soils. Dr. Nicolas Taylor,
lead author of the study said, "If we can learn how to control the GABA
shunt, its timing and intensity, we may be able to boost the wheat plant's
natural resistance to salt, without an impact on yield."