COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced a new way to dramatically increase crop yields by improving upon Mother Nature’s offerings. A team led by Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, in collaboration with Israeli colleagues, has discovered a set of gene variations that can boost fruit production in the tomato plant by as much as 100%.
Plant breeders will be able to combine different gene variants among the set to create an optimal plant architecture for particular varieties and growing conditions. The set of mutations will enable farmers to maximize yield in tomatoes and potentially many other flowering plants, including staple crops like soybeans.
“Traditionally, plant breeders have relied on natural variation in plant genes to increase yield, but yield gains are plateauing,” Lippman notes. “There is an immediate need to find new ways for plant breeders to produce more food.” Worldwide more than 842 million people do not receive adequate nourishment, about 1 person in 8 alive today. The cost of food is expected to increase and hunger is likely to become more widespread as the global population expands to beyond 9 billion by 2050.
In a study published today in Nature Genetics, Lippman’s team identifies an array of new gene mutations that allow, for the first time, a way to fine-tune plant architecture. “We mixed and matched all of the mutations,” explains Lippman. “And we were able to produce plants with a broad range of architectures. Together, our collection of mutations forms a powerful toolkit for breeders to achieve previously unattainable yield gains.”
The breakthrough benefit of the toolkit, says Lippman, is that it allows farmers to customize genetic variations for particular varieties and growing conditions. These results are likely to be broadly applicable to other flowering crops. Similar mutations are already known to play a role in controlling plant architecture for some oil crops, but the team is anxious to move on to critical food crops, specifically soybeans, which share many growth similarities with tomato.
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This work was supported by grants from a European Research Council-Advanced, the Israeli Science Foundation, the Binational Agricultural and Research Fund, and the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program.
“Optimization of crop productivity in tomato using induced mutations in the florigen pathway” appears online in Nature Genetics on November 2, 2014. The authors are: Soon Ju Park, Ke Jiang, Lior Tal, Yoav Yichie, Oron Gar, Dani Zamir, Yuval Eshed, and Zachary Lippman. The paper can be obtained online at: http://www.nature.com/ng/index.html
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. CSHL is ranked number one in the world by Thomson Reuters for the impact of its research in molecular biology and genetics. The Laboratory has been home to eight Nobel Prize winners. Today, CSHL's multidisciplinary scientific community is more than 600 researchers and technicians strong and its Meetings & Courses program hosts more than 12,000 scientists from around the world each year to its Long Island campus and its China center. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.