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Researchers at the Faculty of Agriculture have grown poplar trees capable of growing in desert conditions

The development, through genetic engineering, is intended to help eradicate the phenomenon of desertification.

by Tamara Traubman

Researchers from the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University succeeded in using genetic engineering to develop poplar trees capable of growing in desert conditions. Meanwhile the trees are only growing in research greenhouses. Next year, the author of the study, Prof. Aryeh Altman, head of the Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture at the faculty, intends to transfer a number of seedlings to the Nitsana area in the south as part of a research program for the European market and test their resistance to field conditions.

The main importance of developing such trees, experts say, stems from the fact that the desert is gradually conquering large parts of the earth and within fifty years 40% to 50% of the world's lands will turn into drier and more saline lands, as a result of climate change. "Planting trees and shrubs in such areas is one of the best and surest ways to stop desertification," said Prof. Altman.

In order to find a garden that would give poplar trees the ability to grow in the desert, Prof. Altman and his team studied poplar trees growing in Ein-Abdat. According to Prof. Altman, Ein Abdat is a rare desert site where, during evolution, poplar trees were able to develop and develop genes, which give them resistance to the salinity and dryness of the desert.

The researchers isolated from the DNA of Ein-Abdat garden peepers that protects against damage that dryness and salinity cause to the cells of trees. They are now looking for additional genes with similar activity. The team also introduced the gene into tomato and other plants, and now they are testing whether the gene will make them resistant as well.

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