Scientists at the University of Bonn, Germany, have identified a gene that enables plants to survive droughts, a discovery thought to be welcome for biotech companies developing products for farmers suffering increasingly hot summers.

The researchers examined South Africa’s ‘resurrection plant’, which in dry conditions shrivels up and turns brown but stays alive. When rain comes, whether it has waited weeks or months, its leaves become green within hours.

The scientists found that a series of the plant’s genes are used only during droughts. By implanting these genes in other species, they found that GM cress for instance, could survive 16 days of drought compared with 12 in wild specimens.