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China China experts identify
gene for yield, height in rice 04-May-2008 Reuters via Forbes
CHINA - KABUL, May 5 (Reuters)
- Scientists in China have identified a single gene that appears
to control rice yield, as well as its height and flowering
time, taking what may be a crucial step in global efforts
to increase crop productivity.
In an article published in Nature Genetics, the researchers
said they were able to pinpoint a single gene, Ghd7, which
appears to determine all three traits.
Previous studies identified a region on chromosome 7 which
seemed to be responsible, but they were not able to zero
in on any specific gene.
"Our study shows that a single gene can control several
traits with major effects. It can double the yield, determine
flowering time and plant height," said Zhang Qifa of
the Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan province in
"Previously, we thought we needed to change many genes
to change rice yield, now we just need to manipulate a single
gene to increase productivity," he told Reuters by
Zhang and his colleagues studied 19 rice varieties in Asia
and found that plants that were shorter, had fewer grains
per cluster of flowers, and flowered earlier were lacking
in the gene Ghd7.
When the gene was restored, the scientists saw sharp changes
of increased yields, a doubling of the time to flowering
and a 67 percent increase in height.
The scientists also found five different versions of Ghd7.
"The most highly active versions were present in warmer
regions, allowing rice plants to fully exploit light and
temperature by delaying flowering and increasing yield.
Less active or inactive versions were found in cooler regions,
enabling rice to be cultivated in areas where the growing
season is shorter," they wrote. (Reporting by Tan Ee
Lyn; Editing by John Chalmers)
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