Japan-Brazil team to study use of ethanol to raise crop resilience

NHK has learned that researchers from Japan and Brazil will start a joint study to use ethanol to enhance the tolerance of agricultural produce to hot and dry conditions.

Scientists from Japan's Riken research institute and the University of Sao Paulo will conduct the study.

Seki Motoaki's team at Riken found that giving plants low concentrations of ethanol mixed with water makes them more tolerant to dryness, high temperatures and salinity than those grown only with water.

Brazil is the world's leading agricultural producer. The study comes at a time when people across the globe are struggling to deal with climate change and food shortages.

The scientists will carry out research on sugar cane, an important crop for the South American country. They will look into how changes in the concentration of ethanol affect the plant's resilience to unfavorable conditions.

Last year, Brazil experienced some of the worst droughts on record in large areas of the Amazon River basin in the north. Its agricultural industry has been suffering from serious damage apparently caused by climate change.

Riken previously confirmed that giving ethanol to tomatoes improves their tolerance to high temperatures.

Seki said he wants to expand the research into other produce such as soybeans and corn, and contribute to Brazilian agriculture.

He also expressed hope for future applications of the study in Asia and Africa.

Professor Antonio Figueira of the Brazilian university said he has been involved in the study of drought tolerance of sugar cane for several years, and called the joint research a very valuable opportunity.