Understanding inflorescence architecture in woodland strawberry provides tools for crop improvement

Flowers in plants are typically arranged into branched clusters called inflorescences. As flowers produce the seeds and the fruits, inflorescence architecture—the level of branching as well as the final numbers of flowers in each branch—plays a central role in crop productivity.

Woodland strawberry is a familiar plant for most of us in Finland. It is also a very convenient model plant for biological research—it is easy to cultivate in greenhouses, and its small genome is fully known. Researchers at the Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, have focused on exploring the genetic mechanisms that regulate inflorescence architecture in woodland strawberry. With the help of transgenic strawberry plants, they have identified gene functions that affect the complexity of inflorescences.

"Our aim is to understand the mechanisms behind the diversity of plant structures and forms in nature. In this research, we explored how the level of branching varies in strawberry inflorescences and consequently affects the berry yield of the plant," says Professor Timo Hytönen, the corresponding author of the study.

Researchers demonstrated how strawberry inflorescence development is dictated by the small growing points called meristems. Strawberry meristems, located at the tips of the shoots, may either terminate into a flower or produce new meristems to form a branch. The timing of these events affects the branching iterations, the final number of flowers, and, eventually, the number of berries in the inflorescences.

Read more at phys.org

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