Biotech Updates

Genome Study Identifies Key Maize Genes for Increased Yield

January 14, 2011

A genome-wide association study on maize was conducted by researchers from the Cornell University, USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and North Carolina State University. They found 1.6 million sites in the maize genome that could differ in every individual.

The study also led them to the genes related to leaf angle, an important trait that enables plants to be planted closer to each other. This trait is responsible for the eight-fold increase in yield of maize since the 1900s. The genetic change in ligule, the initial thick portion of the leaf that attaches to the stalk, caused more upright leaves, thus maintaining access to sunlight in crowded plots.

The genomewide association study helps scientists to predict a trait with 80 percent accuracy.

"This method will allow the intelligent design of maize around the world for high-density planting, higher yields and disease resistance," said Ed Buckler, a USDA-ARS research geneticist in Cornell's Institute for Genomic Diversity and the project leader of the study.

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