Plant Geneticists Develop a New Application of CRISPR to Break Yield Barriers in Crops

09:13 EDT 14 Sep 2017 | Meridian Institute

Scientists at the United States-based Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to accelerate plant breeding in a way that could break yield barriers in crops. The team used the technology to rapidly generate variants of a tomato plant that focus on three agriculturally important traits, all of which are major components in determining how much a plant will yield: fruit size, branching architecture and overall plant shape. “Current rates of crop yield increases won’t meet the planet’s future agricultural demands as the human population grows,” says CSHL Professor Zachary Lippman, who led the research. “One of the most severe limitations is that nature hasn’t provided enough genetic variation for breeders to work with, especially for the major yield traits that can involve dozens of genes. Our lab has now used CRISPR technology to generate novel genetic variation that can accelerate crop improvement while making its outcomes more predictable.” The researchers used CRISPR “scissors” to generate multiple sets of mutations in areas of the plant’s DNA that regulate when, where, and at what level these “yield” genes are active during growth. “What we demonstrated with each of the traits,” said Lippman, “was the ability to use CRISPR to generate new genetic and trait variation that breeders can use to tailor a plant to suit conditions. Each trait can now be controlled in the way a dimmer switch controls a light bulb.” Adds Lippman, “We can now work with the native DNA and enhance what nature has provided, which we believe can help break yield barriers.” The method could work in all food, feed, and fuel crops, including staples like rice, maize, sorghum and wheat. The team’s work was published in the journal Cell.

Original Article: Plant Geneticists Develop a New Application of CRISPR to Break Yield Barriers in Crops


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