The new breed blooms longer, produces more flowers and grows under a wider range of temperatures than existing cherry blossom trees, demonstrating the power of accelerator technology in horticulture.
To create the new breed, researchers used beams of carbon ions from the RIKEN Ring Cyclotron at the RI Beam Factory to induce mutations in branches from the cherry blossom tree known as Keiou-Zakura No. 13. The branches were grafted and cultivated to create the new breed, which has been aptly named ‘Nishina Otome’.
Unlike regular cherry blossom trees, Nishina Otome does not require a period of cold weather to trigger growth. As a result, the new tree is able to bloom all year round when cultivated indoors, and during autumn and spring when grown outdoors. Given sufficient exposure to low temperatures, it produces three times more flowers than the regular varieties, and its spring bloom lasts for twice as long.
The use of heavy ion beams to generate new breeds of plants by mutagenisis, an approach to horticulture unique to Japan, is drawing attention worldwide as a powerful alternative to conventional genetic engineering that is capable of shrinking breeding times to only a few years. The second breed of cherry blossom tree to be registered by RIKEN, the Nishina Otome hints at an exciting future for accelerator-based mutation breeding, one which opens the door to the design of plant varieties better able to cope with a changing environment.
Saeko Okada | Research asia research news
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