Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Improved harvest for small farms thanks to naturally cloned crops

29.01.2016

As hybrid plants provide a very high agricultural yield for only one generation, new hybrid seeds need to be produced and used every year. However, natural cloning via seeds might enable the efficiency of such plants to be passed on unchanged. For the first time in experiments, researchers from the University of Zurich have now demonstrated that this nearly 80-year-old idea actually works. This may open up fresh possibilities for both seed producers and small farms in the Third World.

In today’s agriculture, hybrid plants are crucial for the sufficient production of food, feed, fuel and fiber. These crosses between two different varieties are deemed particularly hardy and far more productive than their thoroughbred parent generations.


The new generation of hybrid plants in the greenhouse.

Image UZH


The natural apomictic mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella).

Image UZH

Thanks to hybrid plants, the harvests from types of cereal crop, such as corn, can be more than doubled. However, the positive properties are already lost in the next generation, which is why hybrid seeds need to be reproduced annually. These crosses are costly and time-consuming and farmers are reliant on new seeds every year.

Back in the 1930s, two Russian scientists came up with a proposal to simplify this elaborate process: If the first generation of crosses, the so-called F1 hybrid, were able to reproduce asexually, it would retain their increased efficiency.

Some plant species naturally reproduce by cloning their seeds, which is referred to as apomixis. The theory that apomixis might preserve the properties of hybrid plants, however, had never been tested in an experimental setup – until now: Professor Ueli Grossniklaus and his team from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of Zurich have found proof.

Key contribution towards apomixis research

“Based on hybrid plants that reproduce apomictically, we demonstrated that the offspring also exhibit the desired biological properties,” explains first author Dr. Christian Sailer. “We managed to fix the hybrids’ particular efficiency.”

The plants achieve the same size and yield for at least two more gener-ations. This is in stark contrast to the individual plants of the following generation of conventional F1 hybrids used in agriculture, which differ significantly. Sailer’s publication is a key, much-anticipated contribution towards apomixis research and its potential application as it was previously unclear whether the fixation of the genotype would suffice to preserve the advantageous properties of hybrids for generations.

For their experiments, the research team created 11 new hybrids using natural apomictic mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) and reproduced them for two generations through the natural cloning of the seeds. 20 different properties were measured and tested to see if they changed from one plant generation to the next. Moreover, both generations of the same clone were grown in the greenhouse at the same time to expose them to the same environmental conditions and exclude various factors, such as temperature, water and light.

More affordable and hardy seeds for small farms

“If this special reproduction method could be used in crops, it would slash the cost of producing F1 hybrid seeds,” explains Professor Ueli Grossniklaus. “It’s not just seed producers who stand to benefit, but also subsistence farmers in developing countries.”

Nowadays, these small farmers usually use less productive native crops for their own personal use. Apomictic reproduction would offer them more affordable access to more productive and hardy hybrid strains. And they would be able to use the seeds from the current harvest for sowing the following year without affecting the yield. According to Grossniklaus, however, its actual use in crops still needs to be tested in detail.

Literature:
Christian Sailer, Bernhard Schmid, Ueli Grossniklaus. Apomixis allows the transgenerational fixation of phenotypes in hybrid plants. Current Biology, 28. Januar 2016. Doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.045

Contact:
Prof. Ueli Grossniklaus
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
University of Zurich
Phone +41 79 598 33 89 (in the evening)
E-mail: grossnik@botinst.uzh.ch

Christian Sailer
Cellular and Developmental Biology
John Innes Centre
Colney Lane
Norwich, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 1603 450519
E-mail: christian.sailer@jic.ac.uk

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch/index_en.html

Melanie Nyfeler | Universität Zürich

Further reports about: Biology agriculture crops hybrid plants plant species seeds

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
28.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>