Pruning Plants With DNA

January 28, 1997

The University of Warwick is co-ordinating a Europe wide project which will literally help shape some of the plants of the future. The architecture of plants has a crucial affect on how they are farmed. If a fruit tree has too complicated a branch structure it may be difficult to mechanically harvest, - conversely if another plant has too few roots and branches it may fail to survive in dry conditions.

The Warwick research team and its partners will work together to find ways of enhancing a plants own natural genetic make up to help modify branching patterns in ways which will greatly assist plant breeders and farmers.

Despite their importance, little is known about the mechanisms controlling how plants form roots and shoots. This new research programme known as LATIN (Molecular control of Lateral Initiation) will use a plant called Arabidopsis (also known as mouse ear cress) as a model to test how the plant hormones auxin and cytokinin affect these processes. Arabidopsis's very simple genetic make up makes it a particular useful model - it is effectively the fruit fly of plant genetics.

The researchers are particularly interested to discover techniques that can be applied to eucalyptus, and poplar trees which are harvested to provide materials for the paper, and construction industries. Reduced branching complexity would produce better quality wood that would also be easier to harvest. The research partnership also hopes to use what they learn about the mechanisms of branching for other spin offs to improve qualities within the important crop of oil-seed rape.

Notes for Editors

1 The full list of the University of Warwick's partners in the project is as follows:-

University of York
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique Centre de Versailles Services Generaux (INRA) (France)
Max Planck Gescllschaft zur foerderung der Wissenschaften E.V., Max Delbrueck Laboratorium (MDL) (Germany)
University of Extremadura (UEX) (Spain)
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (SLU) (Sweden)
University of Koeln (Germany)
Nickersons Biochem. Ltd (NBL)
Shell Forestry

2 Funding for LATIN is provided by the EU framework IV in Biotechnology Programme

3 More details on this project can be obtained from the following web site

For further information please contact:
Dr Malcolm Bennett
Department of Biological Sciences
Tel: 01203 523181 or 522556

Peter Dunn, Press Officer
Public Affairs Office
Senate House, University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL Tel: 01203-523708

University of Warwick

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