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As the climate gets hotter and drier, drought-resistant crops are becoming increasingly essential | Photo source Henry Be on Unsplash

DNA breakthrough helps crops resist drought

Agriculture & Energy

A naturally occurring gene creates plants that can survive better in tougher environmental conditions

Spotted: University of Cambridge researchers have discovered that a naturally occurring snippet of plant DNA can grow more resilient crops. The team from the Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury Laboratory found the gene in a variety of species. Rider retrotransposons are tiny, mobile pieces of DNA that insert themselves in different places in a plant’s genes.

This mobile genetic data has the ability to do nothing or everything. It may not change the plant at all or it may amplify certain traits or otherwise change the structure of the DNA in a variety of ways. Such ability has huge ramifications for breeding programmes. As the climate gets hotter and drier, drought-resistant crops are becoming increasingly essential. The scientists identified the mobile gene in crops that are foundational to the diets of many communities around the world. Three such plants are quinoa, beetroot and rapeseed.  

Being able to use a tool that is genetically native to the crop may open a multitude of breeding options with a particular focus on the growing community’s ability to respond and adjust with speed. Such flexibility may become crucial to the maintenance of food production.

Lab produced food is another area of literal and figurative growth. Springwise has spotted a variety of new, edible options, including lab-grown kangaroo and fish.

Email: reception@plantsci.cam.ac.uk

Website: plantsci.cam.ac.uk

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