Biotech Updates

Maize Seedlings Predict Drought Tolerance

July 9, 2010

Maize, one of the leading staple grain in the world is very susceptible to drought stress. With the challenges brought by climate change, this crop has to be developed for tolerance to drought. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich led by Nathinee Ruta have developed a new method for measuring drought tolerance in maize by comparing the shoot-to-root ratio in seedlings stressed by low water.

Roots of maize lines that were grown on filter paper in growth pouches were measured non-destructively using digital image analysis. Using 200 plants per day, the researchers were able to obtain sufficient amount of shoot and root data that allowed researchers to determine the positions of the genes that control root growth and their link to other genes in the maize genome. The research offers promising prospects for using root traits in predicting maize yield under water stress.

"There is probably an optimal maize ideotype for each combination of soil type and climate condition," stated Andreas Hund, one of the senior scientists leading the project. "We aim to define these ideotypes for the contrasting environments and identify key loci allowing us to select for more efficient root systems."

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