Genetic Mechanism Identified to Improve Yield of Food Crops

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Scientists world over are focusing on multiple approaches and employing diverse multidisciplinary skill sets to address the global problem and challenges of food, agriculture, and bioenergy. Using genetic mechanisms to improve the yield potential of a number of cereal crops, particularly with enormous economic significance, is one of the fundamental approaches. In this regard, a recent research conducted in the Eveland lab identified key genetic traits to alter grain-bearing inflorescence architecture in genetically important grass species by focusing on the growth of sterile branches called bristles. A team of researchers led by Andrea Eveland, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Missouri, U.S., studying the physiological processes chose Setaria viridis, a promising model for a variety of grass species, for their work.

The work is published on December 2017 in the journal The Plant Cell and the findings are likely to open promising prospects in enhancing the seed production across grasses.

Combining Genomic Tools with Computational and Experimental Approaches Bear Fruit

The research at the Eveland lab aims at studying the genetic mechanism that control the transition of stem cells to plant organs and the underlying gene network responsible for the process. It demonstrated that a class of plant hormones brassinosteroids (BRs) regulate inflorescence development in early stages. Integrated with a variety of computational and experimental approaches, mechanism for controlling gene regulatory networks is opening exciting avenues for augmenting grain production in millets and a number of feed stocks, including maize, sorghum, sugarcane, and switchgrass.

Disrupting Plant Hormones, Brassinosteroids, Could Control Yield

The team of researchers mapped a genetic locus in the S. viridis genome and found it to be a promising target to alter morphology across the various grasses in the species. The research showed that disrupting BR-based phenotypes not only can convert sterile structure to seed bearing ones, but further leads to improved production of flowers per spikelet—two from the usual one. The genomics tools they developed can also be used for improving the yield of orphan crop species, with an aim of designing optimal architectures for cereal crops.

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