New chemical spray can boost wheat crop yield

New chemical spray can boost wheat crop yield

December 25, 2016

London, Dec 25 (PTI) Oxford researchers have created a synthetic molecule that, when applied to crops, has been shown to increase the size and starch content of wheat grains in the lab by up to 20 per cent.
The new plant application can help solve the issue of increasing food insecurity across the globe, researchers said.
Around 795 million people are undernourished and this years El Nino has shown how vulnerable many countries are to climate-induced drought, they said.
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The method, developed by Rothamsted Research and Oxford University in the UK, is based on using synthetic precursors of the sugar trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P) - a first-of-its-kind strategy that used chemistry to modify how sugars are used by plants.
Researchers identified this naturally occurring sugar as being crucial in controlling how wheat uses sucrose, the main fuel generated by photosynthesis.
Sucrose is key to the development of wheat grains. They identified that the more T6P that is available to wheat grains as they grow, the greater the yield.
A modified version of T6P that could be taken up by the plant and then released within the plant in sunlight was developed by researchers.
This T6P precursor was added to a solution and then sprayed on to the plants, causing a pulse of T6P, which resulted in more sucrose being drawn into the grain to make starch.
When tested in the lab, under controlled environmental conditions, this approach resulted in an increase in wheat grain size and yield of up to 20 per cent.
The study also demonstrated that application of the precursor molecule could enhance plants ability to recover from drought, which could ultimately help farmers to overcome difficult seasons more easily in the future.
"The tests we conducted in the lab show real promise for a technique that, in the future, could radically alter how we farm not just wheat but many different crops," said Ben Davis, professor at Oxford University.
"The "green revolution" in the 20th century was a period where more resilient, high-yield wheat varieties were created, an innovation that has been claimed to have helped save one billion lives," said Davis.
The method has the potential to increase yields across a wide number of crops, as T6P is present and performs the same function in all plants and crops.
Wheat plants were grown until each plant flowered, after which varying concentrations of T6P solution were added to different plants to assess the effect each concentration had on growth.
The wheat was then sprayed with the solutions either on the ears or the whole plant at intervals of five days after the plants first flowered, with just one application sufficient to increase yield.
The study appears in the journal Nature. PTI NKS SAR SAR



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