May 10 (UPI) -- Researchers in Brazil have developed a new "medicine," or seed treatment, for cowpea seeds.
According to a new study, a dose of salicylic acid -- used to make aspirin -- helps the cowpea plant withstand drought and high temperatures. Researchers shared their findings in the Agronomy Journal.
For many Brazilians, cowpeas, known in the United States as black-eyed peas, are a main source of protein.
According to the research, the salicylic acid improves the plants response to stress by helping stress-reducing enzymes work more efficiently.
Increased production of protective enzymes helps the plant maintain growth and health during periods of drought and high temperatures.
Researchers at the State University of Paraíba set a group of cowpea seeds on a paper towel soaked with water and salicylic acid. The seeds were allowed to germinate on the paper towel before being transferred to soil. Control seeds were germinated without acid.
Plants grown from seeds treated with the medicine proved to be more drought resistant.
"The application of this acid is a simple and cheap treatment for increasing water stress tolerance in cowpea, a crop of great value in north and northeast Brazil," researcher Alberto Soares de Melo said in a news release. "The increase of tolerance allows them to grow in areas with greater water irregularity."
The new seed treatment method could be used in regions where drought is common and water resources are limited.
"These results support a step forward for new research on the role and route of action of the acid," Soares de Melo said. "The acid could minimize production and productivity losses of cowpea, and other crops, when cultivated under conditions of low or irregular rainfall, such as the Brazilian Northeast."