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Plant scientists at CSHL demonstrate new means of boosting maize yields
Date:2/3/2013

Cold Spring Harbor, NY A team of plant geneticists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has successfully demonstrated what it describes as a "simple hypothesis" for making significant increases in yields for the maize plant.

Called corn by most people in North America, modern variants of the Zea mays plant are among the indispensable food crops that feed billions of the planet's people. As global population soars beyond 6 billion and heads for an estimated 8 to 9 billion by mid-century, efforts to boost yields of essential food crops takes on ever greater potential significance.

The new findings obtained by CSHL Professor David Jackson and colleagues, published online today in Nature Genetics, represent the culmination of over a decade of research and creative thinking on how to perform genetic manipulations in maize that will have the effect of increasing the number of its seeds which most of us call kernels.

Plant growth and development depend on structures called meristems reservoirs in plants that consist of the plant version of stem cells. When prompted by genetic signals, cells in the meristem develop into the plant's organs leaves and flowers, for instance. Jackson's team has taken an interest in how quantitative variation in the pathways that regulate plant stem cells contribute to a plant's growth and yield.

"Our simple hypothesis was that an increase in the size of the inflorescence meristem the stem-cell reservoir that gives rise to flowers and ultimately, after pollination, seeds will provide more physical space for the development of the structures that mature into kernels."

Dr. Peter Bommert, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Jackson lab, performed an analytical technique on several maize variants that revealed what scientists call quantitative trait loci (QTLs): places along the chromosomes that "map" to specific complex traits such as yield. The analysis pointed to a gen
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Contact: Peter Tarr
tarr@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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