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Crop Biotech Update

UCLA Scientists Develop New Approach to Understand Plant Growth

March 8, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) came up with a mathematical equation to compute leaf mass area that will help identify what controls plant behaviors based on their cells. The research findings are published in Ecology Letters.

"The great diversity of leaves in size, shape and color is dazzling, and yet, it is nothing as compared to the diversity of cells and tissues inside," said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the study. "However, we have lacked equations to relate this inner diversity to overall leaf behavior in an exact way."

Doctoral student and lead author of the study, Grace John, did a comprehensive study of the anatomy of 11 plant species, including iconic species from many ecosystems such as hollywood and a species of tea from Japan. She measured the cross-sections for the sizes and number of cells of the various tissues in the leaf, and stained whole leaves to measure their vein tissues. They used the measurements to develop a theoretical approach that can predict the leaf mass area with significant precision.

According to Sacks, the implications of such equations are massive. A lower leaf mass area usually leads to greater plant growth and productivity, while higher leaf mass area can add to stress tolerance. Thus, the new approach can help elucidate how the differences in cell characteristics among species impact yield and tolerance to environmental stresses brought about by climate change.

Read the news release from UCLA.