“New AI-based tools are allowing researchers to unravel the inner workings of plant biology that were previously hidden in a complex web of molecular interactions.

‘It wasn’t economically feasible to do plant structural biology at scale,’ says Google DeepMind researcher John Jumper, who leads the team behind AI-powered protein structure predictor AlphaFold.

One paper found the structures of less than 2% of the proteins in plant biology’s model species, Arabidopsis thaliana, were known, compared with about 10 times as many for human proteins. AlphaFold bumped that coverage of the plant’s proteins to more than 60%, though with varying degrees of quality.

Harris is using AlphaFold to try to understand the chemical modifications that are made to plant DNA when they are exposed to pathogens, drought and other stresses. Those modifications store information for the plant to respond the next time it is stressed — but how the cell does that was ‘previously invisible’ information, Harris says. 

Other recent AI advances are allowing plant scientists to look beyond a plant’s genes and proteins and consider other key factors — such as the soil, climate, and farm management practices — that are involved in the production of a plant.”

From Axios.