‘Climate Change Resistant Crops’ Move Nearer After Gene Breakthrough

  • Date: 08/01/10

Crops resistant to climate change have come a step closer after British scientists discovered the key gene which allows plants to react to temperatures around them.

In a breakthrough that has the potential to help feed billions of people, scientists from the John Innes Centre in Norwich have found the “thermometer gene” which plants use to sense temperature.

Laboratory tests on a mustard seed plant showed that the gene that plants use in order to know when to grow in the warmer months can be manipulated by taking away a histone protein.

The protein normally binds to DNA and wraps it around them which then controls which genes are turned on.

When the histone protein was taken away from plants, all the genes in the plants reacted as if they were experiencing high temperatures even when the temperature in the lab was turned down very low.

The findings could pave the way for climate change resistant crops within 10 years.

The new super crops would be able to cope with the increased heat expected as the earth’s temperature rises and the research could also help grow plants in much colder climates.

Dr Philip Wigge, one of the researchers, said the discovery, published in the journal Cell, was groundbreaking.

“Climate change will have a huge effect on crop productivity and that’s something we feel gives added impetus to our research,” he said.

“By 2030 the world will need to increase global food production by 50 per cent as population grows and people expect a higher standard of living.

“Wheat and rice, which provide most of the world’s calories, are sensitive to high heat during their growing process.

“Now we understand how plants modify temperatures we can modify how we grow plants in high temperatures.”

The Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2010

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