Boosting food production with limited water availability is of great importance to humanity. However, our current water usage is already unsustainable today. The fact that plant leaves lose a great deal of water through photosynthesis is the greatest limiting factor for larger harvests worldwide. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed an approach to solving the problem: they have been able to get plants to use water more efficiently without restricting their growth. This is thanks to a plant-inherent water-conservation strategy that enables plants to absorb carbon dioxide while minimizing water loss.
Plants activate this water-conserving mode when water is scarce. TUM scientists have been able to identify the activating signal and permanently switch on this water-saving mode. This is a possible solution to resolving the issue that about 70 percent of the water consumed worldwide is utilized by the agricultural sector. Unsustainable water extraction, primarily by the agricultural sector, is lowering the continent's groundwater table. Every year, about 50 net cubic miles of water -- that is approximately three times the annual water volume cascading at the Niagara Falls -- is moved from land to sea, thus contributing to a rise in sea level of about 30 percent. According to the Global Agriculture Report, demand for water is three times higher today than it was 50 years ago. Future prospects: by the year 2050, demand for water in agriculture is expected to increase by another fifth.