Crop Biotech Update

Study Shows How Environment and Genomes Interact in Plant Development

January 26, 2022
Sorghum plants grow in an Iowa field. Iowa State University researchers showed genomes interact with environments during plant development to determine final height in sorghum. Photo Source: Qi Mu / Iowa State University

Scientists at Iowa State University have harnessed data analytics to look at the mechanisms that determine how genetics and changing environmental conditions interact during crucial developmental stages of plants.

The study published in New Phytologist focused on how temperature changes affect the height of sorghum plants and the concept of phenotypic plasticity, or how a given trait can differ as a result of environmental conditions. The new study examined the growth rate of sorghum between 40 and 53 days after planting, a critical stage of development in the crop. Zeroing in on that rapid-growth phase in the plant's life cycle allowed the researchers to examine the mechanisms that govern sorghum's phenotypic plasticity in greater detail.

The researchers found that increases in diurnal temperature change produced shorter plants. The trend was particularly distinct during that critical developmental phase around 40 to 53 days after planting. "We found that these genes actually interact with environmental stimuli and control the maximum growth rate as well as time to reach maximum growth rate," said Qi Mu, a postdoctoral research associate in agronomy and the first author of the study.

For more details, read the article in Iowa State University News Service.

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