01 Apr 2013:
Genetic Discovery May Allow
Lettuce Growth Even in Hot Temperatures
A team of scientists has identified the specific gene in lettuce that causes the plant’s seeds to stop germinating in warm temperatures, a discovery they say could allow production of the food crop year-round even in the planet’s hotter regions. Writing in the journal The Plant Cell
, the researchers say
they identified a chromosome in the wild ancestor of commercial lettuce varieties that enabled seeds to germinate even in warm temperatures. When the chromosome was crossed with commercial varieties of lettuce, they too were able to germinate at warmer temperatures
. After further testing, the scientists found the specific gene that governs a plant hormone known as abscisic acid — which inhibits seed germination in most lettuce plants when exposed to moisture at warm temperatures — and were able to “silence” the mechanism. “Discovery of the genes will enable plant breeders to develop lettuce varieties that can better germinate and grow to maturity under high temperatures,” said Kent Bradford, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California Davis and one of the study’s authors. Because this mechanism occurs in many plant species, he said, the results suggest similar modifications can be made in the growth of other crops.