World Water Day 2012: Less Water, Less Food
Data from the World Water Development Report 2012 shows that the demand for food will increase by approximately 70%, leading to an increase of at least 19% in the water required for agriculture, which already accounts for 70% of freshwater use. REUTERS

Have you ever wondered why it is we tend to tan so easily and are so prone to sunburn whereas plants never seem to mind?

Well... researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and the Scripps Research Institute in California say they have discovered why.

Apparently, just as we slather on sunscreen to protect ourselves... so do plants.

According to the study, a certain protein - UVR8 - acts like a sun block for plants. The protein detects the presence of UV-B and starts a chemical reaction that protects the plants.

UVR8 is a photoreceptor - a light detecting protein - which is there in all organisms. The only difference is that while vertebrates have photoreceptors for vision, plants have photoreceptors that direct their growth towards a light source and trigger when they flower.

Now the researchers have discovered that UVR8 also protects plants from UV-B rays.

"The search for this UV-B photoreceptor was something of a Holy Grail for plant photobiologists and we were very pleased last year when we discovered that UVR8 was the UV-B photoreceptor. Now, with our collaborators we have found that UVR8 detects UV-B by an entirely novel mechanism" said Gareth Jenkins, a Professor of Plant Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Glasgow.