Olomouc scientist exploring the impact of climate change on plants captures global attention

A prestigious achievement was made by a scientist from the Olomouc branch of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences – Pranav Pankaj Sahu. His research dealing with the impact of climate changes on plants interested experts from the Society of Experimental Biology (SEB) in London. He was selected in a huge international competition to become one of the three YSAS (Young Scientists Award Session) finalists in the section of plant cell research during the SEB’s Annual Meeting in Florence, Italy.

“At first, I was little surprised, I could not believe that my research was selected as one of the best. It is my first award ever. What I appreciate most of all, however, is that my work will help people and the whole society and that I was offered the opportunity to present it in front of experts,” said the young Indian scientist from the Centre of Plant Structural and Functional Genomics, which is part of the Centre of the region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research. He successfully presented his research in Florence on 3 July and was given Young Scientist Award 2018 by the Society of Experimental Biology.

The scientist chose to investigate three plants: thale cress, tomato, and barley. He grows them in special chambers at the Global Change Research Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Brno, where he exposes them to simulated conditions for the years 2020 and 2050. The scientist aims to understand how climate change may affect plant development and growth and what molecular and metabolic changes may occur.

“I carefully analyse the plants from germination to harvest. I count their leaves, seeds, I measure their height, make photographs. I have already collected several interesting results, for instance the changes in biomass and yield,” confessed Pranav Sahu.

According to the leader of the research group at the Institute of Experimental Botany, Aleš Pečinka, this project is very important. It will be of vital importance to know what changes may occur in the plants in the future in relation to climate change, and in response to it, to begin cultivating plants with desired traits. “We yet have no similar relevant research data available that would show how plants respond to climate changes. It is one of the reasons why our work was supported by the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the European Commission. All we have so far are various climatic models that focus for example on the annual rainfall, but do not deal directly with plants,” explained Pečinka.

The previous research of the Olomouc scientist suggests that due to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the future, the surface of plant leaves will increase. However, when hit by draught, the consequences may be devastating.

The laboratory’s head, Jaroslav Doležel, considers this research theme to have capital importance, since it helps to deal instantly with problems that future generations will be facing.

“This particular project is an example of interconnecting scientific work with practice. It is extremely important to start dealing with the issues of how to secure sufficient food for humankind before it is too late. The earth’s population is increasing, and it has become obvious that it will be increasingly difficult to feed us all. It will be necessary to increase agricultural production, and since arable lands are diminishing and the climate is changing, the cultivation of more resilient and bountiful crops is the way out. I’m happy that the research conducted in our centre is contributing to this,” added Doležel.