Agriculture : Crop production


Smarter Phytochrome Engineering for Smaller, Denser Crops

The researchers have identified several new phytochrome mutations that could greatly expand their ability to alter crop development, architecture and reproduction.

The group generated the first 3-D model of the light-sensing module of a plant phytochrome (PhyB from Arabidopsis) to predict amino acid changes that may help crops flourish in dense, low-light environments.

Shade-Resistant, Higher-Yield Crops with Modified Phytochromes

UW–Madison researchers have enhanced the light sensitivity of plants by modifying their Phytochrome B (PhyB) gene. Using standard techniques, the researchers made several mutations to the gene sequence. One important change was the substitution of a different amino acid for Tyrosine 361. The modified seedlings grew smaller, exhibiting decreased height, stem diameter, petiole and internode length.

Plant Growth Media for Home Gardens and Nurseries

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville are developing a soil amendment that is an ideal replacement for imported peat moss as determined by laboratory tests that confirmed better plant growth when compared to existing potting soils. The invention uses products from a manure digester as a complementary or sole organic addendum to horticulture growing media containing soil, sphagnum peat moss, bark, coconut coir, sawdust, or other organic materials. Head-to-head comparison demonstrated that plants grown in media containing 22-56% processed manure digester products performed better than those grown in media containing similar amounts of sphagnum peat moss. A variety of soils and other growing media have been developed for supporting the growth of various potted plants.

Singlet Oxygen-Resistant Technologies

UW-Madison researchers have developed a method of altering the response of cells to 1O2 by modulating the interaction between an anti-sigma factor, ChrR, and σE, or by altering the expression of a gene product required for viability in the presence of 1O2. The growth of phototrophic bacteria exposed to 1O2 may be inhibited by administering an anti-sigma agent, such as ChrR, to reduce the availability of σE On the other hand, a bacterium or other organism may be protected from damage from 1O2 by modifying the genes in the σE regulon or by modifying ChrR to alter binding between it and σE.

Vernalization-Related Molecules and Methods for Inducing Permanent Changes in Plant Gene Expression

UW-Madison researchers have identified a novel polypeptide, VIN3, that plays a role in vernalization. During exposure to cold, VIN3 represses FLC, one of the two main genes responsible for flowering in plants. High FLC expression levels inhibit flowering; thus, by repressing FLC, VIN3 helps promote flowering. During vernalization, VIN3 likely represses FLC by hypoacetylating FLC chromatin, triggering histone modifications that result in a stable, repressed heterochromatin state.

This VIN3-mediated process can be applied in other organisms to cause a permanent change in gene expression. The components of the process, including VIN3, can be used to transform a host organism in which a selected gene has been modified to contain certain FLC sequences. These components are preferably under the control of an inducible promoter, which allows the user to trigger at will the development of stable repressed or active chromatin at the target gene. This, in turn, results in an alteration in gene expression that is stable through subsequent plant cell mitotic cycles.

Methods for Enhancing Plant Health Using Lysophospholipids

UW-Madison researchers now have discovered that these compounds may also: 1) prevent damage to growing plants and seeds caused by abiotic and biotic stressors, 2) accelerate plant recovery from stress and 3) enhance seed germination and seedling vigor. In a series of experiments, they showed that plants sprayed with a lysophospholipid solution were both protected and recovered more quickly from chilling, drought, wound-damage, pesticide application and microbial infection.