And that is desperately needed. Over fifty percent of failed crops worldwide are caused by salinity, aridity, extreme temperatures, radiation and a shortage of nutrients. Extreme weather conditions will become increasingly common as a result of climate change. Consequently, crops will fail more often.
Desert plants by nature must adapt to heat, aridity, shortage of nutrients and saline soil. And yet plants do grow in such places; in fact, they have found a solution for surviving under these extreme conditions. Rhizobacteria on the roots provide the plants with nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphate and zinc in exchange for sugars. Now it turns out that a number of these rhizobacteria can make plants better equipped to deal with salt.
Scientists in Saudi Arabia have tested a number of different rhizobacteria on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The results were extremely positive. The plants even grew almost twice as tall thanks to one of the types of bacteria (C. gilardii). In addition, the bacteria also promote root growth, which boosts the plant's capacity to absorb water.
In food crops planted by humans, the less efficient rhizobacteria tend to grow at the roots. By adding the more effective bacteria, these plants can also be protected in part against extreme weather conditions. The use of specific rhizobacteria could potentially be a sustainable option for improving crop yields in the future.