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New Gene Discovery Promises to Extend Reproductive Phase in Peas and Boost Crop Yield

A gene controlling the production of flowers and fruits in legumes, which are considered to be future crops, has been identified by a team from IBMCP (CSIC-UPV).

Saurabh Shukla
New Gene Discovery Promises to Extend Reproductive Phase in Peas and Boost Crop Yield (Photo Source: Pexels)
New Gene Discovery Promises to Extend Reproductive Phase in Peas and Boost Crop Yield (Photo Source: Pexels)

Understanding the mechanisms controlling the reproductive phase in plants is fundamental for enhancing agricultural productivity. A recent breakthrough led by the Research Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMCP), a joint centre of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council) (CSIC) and the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), has identified a key player in plant reproduction: the FUL gene. This research sheds light on a gene's crucial role in regulating the duration of the reproductive period in crops like peas, potentially revolutionizing crop yield optimization.

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study shows the significance of the FUL gene in controlling flowering cessation, a critical aspect of plant reproduction. Led by Cristina Ferrándiz, a research professor at CSIC, the team's findings demonstrate that manipulating the FUL gene could extend the reproductive phase, leading to increased fruit and seed production not only in peas but also in related legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans.

Annual plants, which have a single reproductive season, rely on genetic factors to regulate the timing of flowering cessation. The identification of the FUL gene as a key regulator in this process represents a significant advancement in understanding plant reproductive biology. Previous studies predominantly focused on Arabidopsis, but this research extends the relevance of FUL to distantly related species like peas, showcasing its potential as a universal mechanism governing flowering duration.

Monocarpic plants, characterized by a single reproductive phase, tightly regulate flowering cessation to optimize resource allocation for seed production. The discovery of FUL's role in this regulatory network provides insights into the fundamental processes underlying plant reproduction across species. The study's field trials, demonstrating increased crop yield in lines with altered FUL genes, underscore the practical implications of this research for agricultural productivity enhancement.

"We have seen that mutations that lead to a loss of function of the FUL genes in peas cause the plants to produce flowers, and consequently fruits, for much longer. This tells us that FUL controls the duration of the reproductive phase not only in the laboratory plant Arabidopsis but also in other species, including crop plants," explains Ferrándiz. "The prolonged flower and fruit production means that in certain pea varieties, mutations in the FUL genes can double the seed production, with identical nutritional characteristics to non-mutant plants, both in the greenhouse and the field," he says.

The implications of this research extend beyond the lab, holding significant promise for agricultural innovation. The FUL gene emerges as a potent biotechnological tool, offering a direct route to enhance legume varieties. With traditional mutagenesis or cutting-edge CRISPR technology, the potential to harness FUL genes for yield optimization looms large.

In the face of mounting climate crises, the quest for resilient crops takes center stage. The versatility of FUL gene manipulation presents a compelling solution, bolstering plant resistance to pathogens and drought while simultaneously boosting yields. As we confront the urgent imperatives of sustainable agriculture, the FUL gene stands as a beacon of hope, guiding us toward a future of abundance and resilience.

From lab insights to field applications, this research illuminates’ pathways to enhance crop yield and resilience. As we navigate the challenges of a changing climate, leveraging biotechnological tools like the FUL gene offers a pathway to sustainable food security and environmental stewardship.

(Source: Universitat Politècnica de València)

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