Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. Flowers don't just catch our eyes, they catch those of pollinators like bees as well. They have to, in order to reproduce. Because plants need to maximize the opportunity for pollinators to gain access to their seeds, variations in the timing of flowering can have profound effects on flower, fruit, and seed production, and consequently agricultural yields.
We know that the major driving forces of flowering are external factors such as light and temperature. However, new research from CSHL Assistant Professor Zach Lippman, Ph.D. and his collaborators, published online today in Nature Genetics, shows there is a second, previously unknown mechanism controlling flowering.
Using the tomato plant as their model, Lippman and CSHL co-authors, Cora MacAlister, Soon Ju Park and Ke Jiang, show that loss of control of the timing of flowering, such that the flowering program turns on too fast, results in production of only a single flower on each branch, rather than the usual 7 to 10. Conversely, slowing down the flowering program enables more flowering branches to grow, which means more fruit.
Such dissection of the timing mechanism of flowering in plants like tomato is leading to new strategies for increasing agricultural yield in important crops.
Timing of flowering is precise
During the flowering process, plants form reproductive shoot structures called inflorescences. These structures derive from small stem cell populations buried inside the tiny growing tips of plants called meristems. As plants sense and respond to signals from light and/or temperature, it is at the meristems where plant organs leaves or flowers are formed.
Domesticated tomato plants, which we know and love for their shiny, tasty red fruit, typically grow several multi-flowered inflorescences on each shoot. Each inflorescence is arranged in a zigzag pattern of 7 to 10 flowers on a single branch. Curious
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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory