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Crop Biotech Update

New Study Identifies Sweet Corn Genes for Crowding Tolerance

March 16, 2016

Plants subjected to crowding stress due to high-density planting tend to put more energy into growth and maintenance than reproduction. Some plants delay flowering to allocate resources to growing taller and escape competing for light. A recent study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) attempted to identify the genetic mechanisms of crowding tolerance in sweet corn.

U of I researcher Eunsoo Choe and her team found gene clusters that are related to yield under crowding stress. They measured phenotypic traits for high- and low-yielding hybrids under crowding stress, including plant height, leaf area, and time to maturity. Other traits, such as yield, kernel mass, kernel moisture, and fill percentage were also measured. Lastly, the team extracted genetic material from the plants to explore correlations between gene expression patterns and measured traits. While it was observed that each hybrid used different mechanisms for crowding stress, the researchers found that low-yielding hybrids had gene activities related to various stress responses while high-yielding hybrids utilized gene activities more directly related to carbohydrate accumulation.

Choe says that genes involved with cell growth were prevalent in low-yielding hybrids; these genes may be responsible for delayed flowering under crowding stress. Conversely, genes associated with carbohydrate metabolism were prevalent in high-yielding hybrids; these genes may relate to maintaining yield under crowding stress.

For more, read the news release at the U of I College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences website.