An almost entirely accidental discovery by University of Guelph researchers could transform food and biofuel production and increase carbon capture on farmland.
By tweaking a plant’s genetic profile, the researchers doubled the plant’s growth and increased seed production by more than 400 per cent.
The findings were published in the March 2016 issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.
The team studied Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant often used in lab studies because of its ease of use and its similarity to some common farm crops. They found that inserting a particular corn enzyme caused the plant’s growth rate to skyrocket.
“Even if the effects in a field-grown crop were less, such as only a tenth of what we’ve seen in the lab, that would still represent an increase in yield of 40 to 50 per cent, compared with the average one to two per cent a year that most breeding programs deliver,” said Prof. Michael Emes, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB).