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Crop Biotech Update

Research Shows New Means to Boost Maize Yields

February 6, 2013

Scientists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York have finally proven a simple hypothesis for making significant increases in maize yields. Led by CSHL Professor David Jackson, the team looked at how quantitative variation in the pathways regulating plant stem cells contributes to its growth and yield. According to Jackson, "Our simple hypothesis was that an increase in the size of the inflorescence meristem will provide more physical space for the development of the structures that mature into kernels."

Dr. Peter Bommert, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Jackson lab, performed an analytical technique on maize variants that revealed quantitative trait loci (QTLs), and the analysis pointed to a gene that Jackson has been interested in since 2001, when he was first to clone it, a maize gene called FASCIATED EAR2 (FEA2). The research has shown that by producing a weaker-than-normal version of the FEA2 gene, it is possible, to increase meristem size, and get a maize plant to produce ears with more rows and more kernels.

The news release about this research is available at http://www.cshl.edu/Article-Jackson/plant-scientists-at-cshl-demonstrate-new-means-of-boosting-maize-yields. Results of this research appear online in the February issue of Nature Genetics. The paper can be viewed at: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.