Professor Farrant's research involves investigation of the mechanisms of desiccation tolerance (DT) in the vegetative tissues and seeds of highly unusual plants (termed resurrection plants) that tolerate extreme water loss and yet regain full metabolism in existing tissues on rewatering. Of the 300 angiosperm species world wide that exhibit vegetative desiccation tolerance, 90% occur only in southern Africa and her research group are consequently able to study a number of tissue types (roots, stems, leaves and seeds) in a variety of resurrection plants (nine angiosperm and two ferns species).
In order to gain a full understanding of the phenomenon of desiccation tolerance it is important to study the plant responses from the molecular to the whole plant, ecophysiological levels. Professor Farrant's research therefore encompasses investigation of gene transcription and regulation, characterization of the proteins produced and their regulation and of metabolites produced that ultimately protect the plant tissues at the subcellular level. Also included are ultrastructural and structural biology studies, in which the subcellular protectants are localized and important protein structures solved in order to understand the nature of their protection. This is then related to aspects of whole plant anatomical and physiological changes that occur in response to drying and rehydration.