Drought: Plants prioritise keeping their flowers cool during hot, dry weather

Under heat and water stress, plants sacrifice their leaves to keep their sexual organs cool – a strategy that we could harness to protect crops from climate change



10 December 2021

Field with ripened soy. Glycine max, soybean, soya bean sprout growing soybeans. Yellow leaves and soy beans on soybean cultivated field. Autumn harvest. Agricultural soy plantation background.; Shutterstock ID 1714351396; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

A field of soya bean plants

Shutterstock / kuludi

In hot, dry weather, plants sacrifice their leaves to cool and protect flowers, which contain their sexual organs. The strategy could be harnessed to defend crop yields against climate change.

Plants lose nearly all the water they absorb through evaporation via pores known as stomata. This process, known as transpiration, cools the plant and helps them suck up more nutrient-filled water from the ground, like drinking through a straw.

When the weather is hot, the stomata open to release water and heat. But when …