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Climate and Food Grains: New Wheat Gene Info Will Increase Adaptability

Sep 08, 2015 06:11 PM EDT
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Researchers from the University of California-Davis recently found a fourth gene that determines how wheat plants flower after experiencing a freeze. Having the key to this process, vernalization, could aid in future development of improved varieties of wheat. 

In the recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists explain that the vernalization process is important for the development of the cold-sensitive flowering parts of "winter wheat," which is planted in the fall and harvested during early summer. This compares to "spring wheat," which doesn't undergo vernalization because it is planted only in spring and harvested in fall, in areas where the plant can't tolerate the intense winters. The new gene they discovered is called VRN-D4.

"We're extremely interested in understanding the adaptive changes, especially vernalization, which occurred in wheat during the early expansion of agriculture," Nestor Kippes, first author and a doctoral candidate in the Dubcovsky lab, said in a news release. 

Kippes added that, since vernalization governs flowering time, it's important to a plant's reproductive success and key to maximizing grain production. This is vital in producing enough wheat to supply the world's growing demand and to help broaden the amount of wheat that can be grown in cold and warm climates. 

"The VRN-D4 gene and the other three vernalization genes can be used by plant breeders to modify vernalization requirements as they work to develop wheat varieties that are better adapted to different regions or changing environments," Kippes said. 

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