Food production could now be cheaper thanks to Australian research

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 9th October 2017

The production of food and beverages could become cheaper and more reliable thanks to a germination breakthrough by La Trobe University and University of Western Australia scientists.

The research, published online by the Genome Biology Journal, explores how a crop’s genome can control the time a seed ‘wakes up’. Researchers say knowing such information will allow producers to benefit from knowing more about the growth pattern of their crops.

“Scientists and crop breeders have been interested in seed dormancy and germination for a very long time,” said La Trobe University’s Dr Mathew Lewsey.

“They breed carefully to control it in many crops because it affects their yields enormously.”

With the knowledge gained from this research, Dr Lewsey hopes to perfect the genome-editing technology needed to produce new plant cultivars that germinate differently, giving farmers the ability to control when their crops are ready for harvest.

“We want to be able to control when seeds wake up and how quickly they do it,” he said.

Dr Quentin Gouil from La Trobe University, also involved in the study, said the researcher could help address food security issues related to food staples including rice, corn and wheat.

“Farmers and brewers can produce higher quality products if they know exactly when their seeds will wake,” Dr Gouil said.

Researchers conducted their initial research on the Arabidopsis plant and now hope to get the same results with crop plants such as barley and rice.

“New cultivars of plants that germinate as growers want would be permanently modified so that, when those plants are propagated, their seeds and the offspring from those would all have the new behaviour,” said researcher, Dr Reena Narsai from La Trobe University.

“We will look to generate varieties that have accelerated or slowed-down germination and will study how they control the genetic switches that turn this off and on.”


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