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Researchers Develop New Method to Improve Crops


Technique using plant's own DNA could produce crops that are more resistant to drought and disease

A team of University of Georgia researchers has developed a new way to breed plants with better traits. By introducing a human protein into the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, researchers found that they could selectively activate silenced genes already present within the plant.
Using this method to increase diversity among plant populations could serve to create varieties that are able to withstand drought or disease in crops or other plant populations, and the researchers have already begun testing the technique on maize, soy and rice. They published their findings in Nature Communications.

The research project was led by Lexiang Ji, a doctoral student in bioinformatics, and William Jordan, a doctoral student in genetics. The new method they explored, known as epimutagenesis, will make it possible to breed diverse plants in a way that isn’t possible with traditional techniques.

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Image via University of Georgia