VIB and UGent scientists develop process to predict plant size

Summary

Flemish and Italian researchers have discovered a technique that will help accelerate the plant breeding process and develop resistance to disease

New insights

Scientists connected to the Flemish life sciences research institute (VIB) and Ghent University (UGent) have developed a technique to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling. The breakthrough was made possible through the discovery of a set of genes associated with the final size of a leaf.

Plant scientist Joke Baute and colleagues from the Italian Institute of Life Sciences in Pisa conducted a study into the set of all RNA molecules of the cell division zone in corn seedling leaves. The scientists linked a specific set of RNA molecules to external properties, which are not expressed until much later in the growth process, such as final leaf size and biomass production.

“These new insights will help us accelerate the plant breeding process,” said VIB/UGent scientist Dirk Inzé. “In the long term, breeders will be able to select the most useful plants at a very early stage, which will considerably speed up breeding programmes.”

It currently takes a long time to develop new strains of plants with a greater yield or greater resistance to disease. Breeding products must be manually infected to determine whether they are disease-resistant and corn plants must first produce ears before their yield can be determined. By choosing plants on the basis of genetic data, this selection process can be made more efficient. The technique can help increase agricultural productivity without harming natural ecosystems.

Photo courtesy VIB

Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB)

VIB is a government-funded life-science research institute that has helped Flanders become one of the leading bioscience regions in Europe. Its focus is on translating scientific insights into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications.
Open house - Each year, the institute opens its labs across Flanders to thousands of visitors in its open-house Biotech Day.
First - Flemish researchers were the first to unravel the chemical structure and functional meaning of a complete genome.
Mission - The VIB was created to push Flemish life sciences research to the top and to help scientific results foster economic growth.
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