Japanese research could boost crop yields

Genetic trigger adds branches to plants

Regarding crop yielding branched plants -such as apple trees- the more branches that bear fruit, the better. But there's a limit to the number of branches that plants create, caused by a gene that puts the brakes on this splitting process called shoot branching. This week, researchers revealed a chemical that could reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved crop production.

According to a sciencedaily.com article, Previous studies of a plant hormone that inhibits shoot branching resulted in the identification of a regulator gene called D14. The research team led by Shinya Hagihara and Yuichiro Tsuchiya reasoned that if they could inhibit this regulator gene, they could do the opposite and increase branching.

By screening a library of 800 compounds, the researchers found that 18 of them inhibited D14 by 70% or more. Of these -called DL1- was particularly active and specific. This D14 inhibitor increased shoot branching in both a type of flower and in rice. In preparation for DL1's use as a potential commercial agrochemical, the team is now testing how long the chemicals last in the soil and whether it is toxic to humans.

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