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Crop Biotech Update

Small Genetic Differences Make Plants into Better Teams

November 7, 2018

Plant communities and animals have typically performed better than monocultures. The mechanisms for this, however, have been a mystery for a long time. Biologists at the University of Zurich (UZH) have now identified the genetic cause of these mechanisms.

Two UZH researchers, Samuel Wüst and Pascal Niklaus, addressed this question by combining modern genetic and ecological approaches. They used systematic crosses of varieties of Arabidopsis plants, which were grown in pots in different combinations. A few weeks later, the researchers weighed the resulting biomass, which allowed them to compare the growth of the plants. As expected, pots with mixtures of different crosses were indeed more productive on average.

The researchers related the yield gain in mixed communities to the genetic makeup of the crosses. The genetic map they obtained helped them in identifying parts of the genome that made the combination of plants good mixed teams. They found that even the smallest genetic differences between plants were enough to increase their combined yield.

For more details, read the research news from The University of Zurich.