VIB gene discovery could increase corn harvest


Flemish researchers have discovered that increasing the effectiveness of corn’s PLA1 gene leads to a more bountiful and longer-lasting crop

Stable crops

Researchers at the Flemish life sciences research institute VIB and Ghent University (UGent) have discovered that the PLA1 gene strongly increases the growth and yield of corn. The results have been published in the science magazine Nature Communications.

The researchers succeeded in boosting corn’s biomass and seed production significantly by increasing the power of its PLA1. “This resulted in an additional yield of 10 to 15% in the same agricultural area,” said professor Dirk Inzé in a statement.

Analyses on a cellular level have shown that PLA1 also extends the duration of plant growth. “Plants with the PLA1 trait become bigger and produce more seeds, which can be a benefit to farmers,” said researcher Hilde Nelissen.

The growth-enhancing effect of PLA1 was confirmed through field trials that took place over several seasons in Belgium and in the US. In the greenhouse, the researchers also discovered that PLA1 plays a role in how plants cope with drought stress. The gene appeared to partly compensate for the growth reduction that normally occurs as a result of long periods of water shortage.

According to the researchers, the results are crucial in the search for stable crops in more extreme weather conditions  resulting from global warming.

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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