Posted 27 May 2020
“One major achievement in antitranspirants research during the past decade was establishing the optimal timing of application of the substances, which is linked to reproductive processes most vulnerable to drought."
A Harper Adams University PhD student has had a major review of antitranspirants being used to reduce crop drought stress published in one of the main international journals for water science.
The last major review into the subject was written in 1981. Wiza Mphande from Zambia, has had his review published in Agricultural Water Management.
About 80 per cent of global farmland is under rain-fed conditions and most of it is prone to drought, which limits crop productivity.
Due to climate change, drought will become more frequent and severe, threatening world food security. Antitranspirants, materials that reduce transpiration, could potentially result in greater food production by realising more of a crop’s potential yield during drought.
Despite antitranspirants reducing photosynthesis, research has shown that they can mitigate drought stress and increase grain yield.
Wiza’s paper is a systematic review of 173 original research articles published between 2009 and 2018. Overall, the analysis suggests that interest in the potential of antitranspirants is growing.
In the review, he said: “One major achievement in antitranspirants research during the past decade was establishing the optimal timing of application of the substances, which is linked to reproductive processes most vulnerable to drought.
“Despite research evidence of the efficacy of antitranspirants lessening the effects of drought stress, they are not widely used for commercial arable crop production. However, in fruit horticulture, products with antitranspirants effects are already being used commercially for various non-antitranspirant purposes. More recent research shows that with knowledge of a crop’s growth stage and soil moisture, antitranspirants can be a valuable option for managing drought impacts on yield in arable crops.”
On why the topic is important, Wiza said: “A lot of droughts affect farmers by loss of crop.
“Even in years when we don’t have serious drought there can be a ‘dry spell’, a few weeks where there is no rain and the importance of that is if it comes during the time when plants are flowering then there’s going to be damage to the crop yield.
“By me studying these antitranspirants and understanding how they work, I can perhaps help Zambia’s farmers to get interested in these products in order to reduce drought loss.”
The review not only highlighted that antitranspirants can improve yield and conserve irrigation water, but also that in some cases, can reduce disease and insect pest incidences.
In his review, Wiza wrote: “One of the challenges against achieving world security ahead of 2050 is not just finding effective drought amelioration techniques but also increasing the knowledge and accessibility to the end user of the technologies.
“Antitranspirants are yet to enter commercial drought amelioration in arable crop production, despite research providing evidence of agronomic benefits. Antitranspirants may still be too expensive for use in low value crop production hence the need to find cheaper alternatives.
“Increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and the associated crop failure may stimulate farmers’ adoption of antitranspirants for a role in arable crop production.”