Bigger slant for a better plant: Decoding leaf angle genetics for better crop yields

Plants have been the primary source of our food for ages. With the human population growing rapidly, there is a continual increase in the demand for food produce. Since agricultural land is limited, fulfilling this increasing demand requires finding ways to improve the food crop productivity from existing cultivations. "Crop architecture," or the design of the crop plant, can have a major influence on its produce. Therefore, identifying crop architecture patterns and underlying biology could help improve agricultural productivity.

In a new study published in The Crop Journal, a team of researchers from China has now delved deeper into the genetic basis of crop architecture using rice as a model plant system. Leaves are the primary site for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy.

Furthermore, the "leaf inclination" or the angle at which the leaf emerges from the stem determines its exposure to sunlight and, in turn, its photosynthetic capacity. In their study, the researchers identified genetic factors that control leaf inclination in rice, Oryza sativa. Giving further insight into the implications of their work, Professor Hongwei Xue, who led the study, explains, "The leaf inclination is an important trait determining the shape of the light-receiving part of the rice leaf. Identifying genetic variants with a leaf angle that favors ideal plant architecture can help in breeding rice varieties with higher productivity, improving the yield."

Several plant hormones, particularly "auxin" and "brassinosteroids" (BRs), are known to regulate leaf inclination. Interestingly, mutants that are deficient in BRs show erect leaf architecture with decreased inclination, while rice plants with decreased auxin levels exhibit increased leaf inclination. Auxin mutants with changed leaf angles have been shown to present altered BR responses. However, the precise mechanisms governing these effects remain unknown.

Read the complete article at www.phys.org.

Meiqing Xing et al., Rice OsIAA6 interacts with OsARF1 and regulates leaf inclination, The Crop Journal (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cj.2022.02.010 


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