Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover RNA Controlling Tuber Formation in Potatoes

May 22, 2019

Potatoes are not heat-loving plants. In extremely high temperatures, potato plants form significantly lower numbers of tubers or sometimes none at all. A team of biochemists at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered the reason why.

When temperature rises, a small RNA blocks tuber formation. The scientists have switched off this small RNA and produced potato plants that are more resistant to high temperatures, an important contribution to securing crop yields in the future in view of climate change

For the highest yields, potatoes need moderate temperatures around 21 degrees centigrade during the day and 18 degrees at night. At these temperatures and at the correct day length, a protein that induces the formation of tubers called SELF-PRUNING 6A (SP6A) is formed, which triggers tuber formation in the plant in prepation for colder periods. However, in warm temperatures, the plants form more green shoots and leaves and hardly any or no tubers. The RNA is inactive at low temperatures. If temperatures rise, it blocks the formation of SP6A and thus the formation of tubers.

For more details, read the FAU news article.