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Gene Modification to Increase Drought and Flood Tolerance in Plants

Stage: Prototype

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have used recombinant nucleic acid techniques to overexpress a gene — SAB18 — to increase plants’ tolerance to both drought and flooding. SAB18, found in rice and other grass plants, is involved in carbohydrate and nucleotide metabolism and is responsible for a plant’s natural tolerance to variations in water availability. Plants that are modified to over-express this gene have been shown to remain greener, taller, and more erect when subjected to extreme water conditions. When compared to natural plants under similar conditions, the viability and health of SAB18 modified rice plants increased substantially.

Currently being tested in rice plants, this type of genetic recombination and resultant gene enhancement could result in improved staple crop harvests. Plants would be able to thrive in conditions of unstable water availability, which would increase both harvest size and viable plant number.

Applications and Industries

  • Agriculture
  • Feedstocks for biofuel production


  • Increases availability of staple food crops regardless of water resources
  • Reduces need for monitoring of water levels during growth