Environment

All in the genes: Food fit for a warming world

All in the genes: Food fit for...
Rapeseed is one of the foods that could be made more temperature-resilient, research suggests
Rapeseed is one of the foods that could be made more temperature-resilient, research suggests
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Rapeseed is one of the foods that could be made more temperature-resilient, research suggests
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Rapeseed is one of the foods that could be made more temperature-resilient, research suggests

New research out of the UK's John Innes Centre suggests that it may be possible to engineer cauliflower, broccoli, rapeseed, and other crops, so they're better suited to farming in a world beset by climate change.

The key is in the gene that influences how these plants release their seeds. By tweaking this gene's figurative thermostat, this seed dispersal could be made to happen at higher temperatures, increasing crop yields in warming climes.

The work suggests a possible solution to the problem of premature seed dispersal, also known as pod shatter, caused by seed pots splitting open before harvest. Farmers of rapeseed, for example, lose on average 15 to 20 percent of their yield per year, according to the researchers. And as New Atlas has previously reported, crop yields could well worsen in the face of global warming.

"It's almost as if there is a thermostat that controls seed dispersal, or pod shatter," says Dr. Vinod Kumar, co-author of the research. " As we learn how it works, we could in the future 'rewire' it so seed dispersal does not happen at the same pace at higher temperatures." This could be achieved by modifying the gene previously identified as responsible for pod shatter, INDEHISCENT (IND), making temperature-resilient crops, in Dr. Kumar's words, "an achievable dream."

To demonstrate the link between temperature and pod shatter, researcher Dr. Xinran Li observed fruit development in Arabidopsis, or rockcress, at increasing temperatures.

At higher temperatures, the cell walls prone to shatter were found to stiffen, accelerating the pod shatter itself. To learn whether the findings were applicable to other specifies, the researchers did further tests on Capsella rubella (pink shepherd's-purse), Lepidium campestre (field pepperwort) and Brassica napus (rapeseed).

The researchers found that the results are "conserved across members of the Brassicaceae family," which includes cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and also rapeseed.

According to the research, the findings "provide alternative avenues for crop improvement in the face of climate change." As means of addressing future food supply go, modifying crops may scale better than triple-decker floating farms.

The research was led by Dr. Vinod Kumar and Professor Lars Østergaard. Their paper, Temperature modulates tissue-specification programme to control fruit dehiscence in Brassicaceae, appears in the journal Molecular Plant.

Previously, New Atlas has reported on the John Innes Centre's work to develop future foods such as climate change-resilient broccoli, a tobacco-related polio vaccine, and speed-bred wheat.

Source: John Innes Centre

5 comments
f8lee
My stars! I daresay the anti-GMO crown will have a case of the vapors if they hear of this - feeding more people be damned!
Travis Tarr
Grand Solar Minimum Much? TSI is at 100 year low. Sunspots are almost non-existent. When is this global warming propaganda going to stop? Nothing will grow when it's cold.
ljaques
People are already fed, silly, but politics (tyrants or warlords) fail to distribute food. Why don't more people see that plants adapt to whatever conditions they are presented with? Why don't more people see that putting GMOs into the picture limits generational changes of safe crops while posing much larger dangers to us all? (Much worse than vapors) If enough GMO gets around and ruins all the various heirloom plants and there is a disease, nothing will be around to sprout next year at all. With wheat or corn, that would kill tens of millions. MonSatan doesn't care, though. Give this conservative (not to be confused with a tree- hugger) non-GMO seeds, please. I'll happily make-do.
nono
Problem with crops will be flash floods and droughts. Heat waves and freezes. It won't stay everything like today with a couple degrees more. 10 degrees more means that you have doubled the amount of vapour in air. Which means storms exponentially stronger. At the same time rain becomes rarer because termal gradients (temperature change with height) becomes weaker in troposphere. Stratosphere becomes instead much cooler.. so if a storm manages to punch a hole into the strasphere it has huge energy. All while the polar vortex becomes crazy. We are already starting to see it.
Aross
Yes, but will we be able to consume the bastardized genes without ill effect? After all we are what we eat.