Biotech Updates

Rice Gene Makes Maize Productive; To Do the Same for Other Crops

February 14, 2018

In field trials three years ago, biotechnologists showed that they could increase maize productivity by introducing a rice gene into the plant that regulated the accumulation of sucrose in kernels, which also led to more kernels per maize plant. This promising technique is set to do the same for other crops, including wheat and rice.

The rice gene affected the performance of a natural chemical in maize, trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P), which influences sucrose distribution in the plant. But they were keen to discover more intimate details of the relationships governing the increased productivity.

The transgenic maize depressed levels of T6P in the phloem, a major component of the plant's transportation network. This allows more sucrose to move to developing kernels and, serendipitously, increasing rates of photosynthesis, thereby producing even more sucrose for more kernels. The team also looked at the phloem within the plant's reproductive structures which are sensitive to drought. Female kernels abort, but keeping sucrose flowing within the structures prevents this abortion.

More details are available at Rothamsted Research News.