New method to improve crops

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 particular activate silenced genes already available within the plant. Using this method to enlarge variety among plant populations could serve to generate varieties that are able to resist drought or disease in crops or other plant populations, and the researchers have already begun testing the technique on maize, soy, and rice.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 inspect, known as epimutagenesis, will make it possible to breed diverse plants in a way that isn’t possible with traditional techniques.The idea for the method evolved originally from working in the lab with the department of genetics professor Robert Schmitz, the corresponding author on the studying DNA methylation, which controls expressed genetic traits and creating maps of where DNA methylation is located in many plant species, including crops.

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