Even as large parts of the world get driven by drought, scientists are researching how we can continue to grow and harvest crops with less water.

Even though a number of staple crops, such as rice and wheat, are equipped with a "defense mechanism" that can arm them against drought, the time lag can make things too late for the plants to survive.

The reason for this is the enzyme phosphatase SAL1, according to experts at the Australian National University. They explain that the enzyme can behave like a cantankerous alarm to warn about drought---but only after the blaze begins to catch on.

On the other hand, the "defense mechanism" reduces the loss of water as well as its usage in the plant. However, it works only when the drought bites the plant.

"The sensor in plant leaves is constantly sensing the state of its environment in terms of water and light levels," Dr. Kai Xun Chan from the ANU Research School of Biology said. "The sensor is able to sense when conditions become unfavourable, such as during extreme drought stress, by changing itself into a form with altered shape and activity...If we can get the alarm to go off at the first signs of water deficit, we can help the plant survive severe droughts."

Hence, it is important for the scientists to kick off the water-preservation mode much earlier before the plants mature. The plants, which are sensitive to damage in their early stages, would be likely to not only survive but also finally give a bigger harvest.

Hence, figuring out the enzyme trigger is only the beginning. How agriculturists will implement the process is vital and important in order to encourage growth and development in a dying world.

The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.