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Dartmouth research: The clocks are ticking and the climate is changing

so traced circadian parameters to most of those same areas, suggesting a link between the two. This association suggests that we could potentially use the clock to manipulate water use efficiency."

In a related project, McClung will be working with soybeans, attempting to correlate circadian period length with latitude. "If we can understand the clock, we might then manipulate the clock in ways to achieve desired goals, including water use efficiency and better yield."

Why and How?

McClung feels strongly that this sort of basic research has the potential to contribute in significant ways to food production increases. "Whether or not we achieve that increase or whether it allows us to fertilize a little less and so pollute a little less but maintain the same productivity level, anything in the net direction that is positive is going to help," he says. "We can't necessarily say exactly how it will help, but I think it's not unreasonable to think that this very basic research can have a real world impact, and one hopes it will."

Sidebar: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

"We will need to genetically modify our plants to control our circadian biological clocks," says Professor Rob McClung. "Every domesticated plant and animal that we have today is already genetically modified. None of them are as they are found in nature. We have manipulated their genes by selective breeding and creating hybrids."

To produce the corn we eat today, prehistoric farmers first had to find some variant that had a desirable trait, keep its seeds and plant them, repeating the process for countless generations to bring out that trait. That is selective breeding and it produced a plant whose genome was modified.

To make a tomato plant resistance to a particular disease or pest, we might find some related pest-resistant species in the wild and cross it with our garden variety tomato to produce a hybrid. Successive

Contact: Amy Olson
Dartmouth College

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