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Flowering Time Pathways Underlying Quantitative variation in heading date of wheat

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Genes controlling wheat flowering time

Information on the genes that control wheat flowering time may soon enable breeders to manipulate the precise time that their crops flower for maximum yield.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Crops like wheat develop through several defined growth stages, starting with seedling germination, maturing through to flowering and ending with ripening. The timing of flowering (and subsequent pollination) within these growth stages has a strong influence over wheat's yield and ability to adapt to changing environments. The EU-funded FTPUQ (Flowering time pathways underlying quantitative variation in heading date of wheat) project analysed wheat genes that control flowering time. Researchers particularly wanted to determine how flowering changes based on local climate conditions. This adaptability enables farmers to grow wheat varieties in environments with different temperatures and light periods. While temperature and light have a major influence on all growth stages, including flowering, a gene called earliness per se (eps) fine-tunes flowering time. Researchers looked at variants of the eps gene to determine how it controls plant development, adaptation to changing conditions and yield. After crossing two parent wheat varieties containing different versions of the eps gene, researchers grew the offspring under different environmental conditions. They found that the gene controlled wheat heading time, which occurs a few days before flowering, and affects the length of early developmental stages. To find where eps is located in the wheat genome, researchers analysed offspring that inherited either version of the gene from their parents. While growing the plants in both spring and autumn, they also took note of traits like flowering time and yield. They then looked to see if they could link differences in these traits to the gene that each plant inherited from its parents. The eps gene was located on the short arm of chromosome 3. This information will allow breeders to select the best traits from different parent plant varieties to control wheat flowering for maximum yield.

Keywords

Genes, wheat, flowering, crops, yield, environments, earliness per se

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