With less suitable space for cultivation and more people to feed, it is more important than ever to grow strong, nutritious crops. Researchers have discovered a gene that brings these best crops one step closer.
Plants can contain tens of thousands of genes. Some plants even have more than humans. And behind a characteristic such as shape or color are often very complex processes. Regardless of the effect on the plant’s environment and conditions, often no single gene or substance is responsible for a trait. The gene can also control many processes. If you confirm that you have a higher gene expression, this could have several effects. Therefore, researching plant genes is not that easy.
High or low
In this new study, they were curious about the mechanism behind plant height. Why does one plant grow in the air and another plant close to the ground? From an evolutionary point of view, it has its advantages. As a vegetarian, you are sheltered close to the ground and have less chance of eating. You also don’t have to put energy into long stems. In the air, however, the seeds scatter more easily and capture more light.
There are also differences in height between crops. Us humans often have something to do with it. The crossing and cultivation of plants with beneficial properties has continued for some time. Humans were already domesticating plants about 10,000 years ago.
Not so long ago, people wanted to have compact plants close to the ground. Since the plant does not use energy to grow, it produces more seeds or fruit. A lot of fertilizers were also used, which made the plants extremely airy and more vulnerable. So the length has already been considered. It was also known at the time that the DELLA genes played a major role in this. However, this focus on height has had a cost: plants have sprouted close to the ground, which can be a problem in dry conditions.
When what should grow where
In the new research, they found something that might help. Another gene: the ATH1 gene, which plays an important role in determining this growth and hopefully allows it to affect height in a more controlled way. Without harmful side effects.
What the researchers also hope is that all this knowledge about how plants grow can help us reverse some of the wrong decisions from the past.
In this sound you hear researcher Robert Sablowski of the British John Innes Center. Read more about research here: Highlight the long and short growth of the plant. De paper vind je hier: Arabidopsis Homeobox Gene1 controls plant architecture by locally restricting environmental responses.