Submitted to: Environmental and Experimental Botany
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2014
Publication Date: 3/13/2014
Citation: Wisniewski, M.E., Gusta, L.V. 2014. The biology of cold hardiness: adaptive strategies. Environmental and Experimental Botany. 106:1-3. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Characterizing and understanding how plants adapt and acclimate to freezing temperatures during various parts of their life cycle has been the subject of study since the latter part of the 19th century. Each new generation of scientists has used the latest available technology to develop a greater understanding of this topic and with this has grown an appreciation of the complexity of the biology of cold hardiness. While the term cold hardiness is often used to describe the general ability of a plant to tolerate freezing, in actuality, it represents adaptive strategies that have evolved in response to many different types of stresses and environmental scenarios. As an example, the types of stress to which a plant may be exposed in midwinter may be very different than the stresses to which it is exposed during a spring frost. Adaptive strategies may also involve different aspects of a plant, ranging from biochemical adaptations that offer some form of cryoprotection to structural and morphological adaptations that affect when and where ice forms and how it is propagated. Changes in cell membrane composition and an increase in compatible solutes and other cryoprotective compounds are examples of the former type of adaptation, while deep supercooling and extra organ freezing are examples of the latter adaptation. Cold acclimation and freezing tolerance should therefore be seen as a process, composed of distinct but overlapping components that most likely exist as individual genetic, inheritable units, rather than as a single entity where maximum cold hardiness is defined by a single or a few genetic loci.