Nav: Home

Maize study finds genes that help crops adapt to change

February 18, 2017

Over many thousands of years, farmers have bred maize varieties so the crops are optimally adapted to local environments.

A new study, published Feb. 6 in Nature Genetics, analyzed close to 4,500 maize varieties - called landraces - bred and grown by farmers from 35 countries in the Americas to identify more than 1,000 genes driving large-scale adaptation to the environment.

"The study provided a powerful catalog of the genes necessary for corn to adapt to different latitudes and elevations across the world," said senior author Edward Buckler, a research geneticist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at the Institute for Genomic Diversity at Cornell.

"It takes a thousand genes to attune a plant for a particular latitude and the elevation where it is grown. That's what we are mapping here," Buckler said.

The researchers also identified genes associated with flowering time - the period between planting and the emergence of flowers, which is a measure of the rate of development. Flowering time is a basic mechanism through which plants integrate environmental information to balance when to make seeds instead of more leaves.

"Flowering time is the trait that is most correlated with every other trait," Buckler said. The study found that more than half of single nucleotide polymorphisms (the most basic form of genetic variation) associated with altitude were also associated with flowering time, revealing these traits are highly linked.

Current technology, including a new rapid experimental design called F-One Association Mapping (FOAM), allowed the researchers to use the collection of diverse maize varieties to figure out which genes were important for adaptation.

"With global climate change over the next century, we can directly use this information to figure out what genes are important" to greatly speed up breeding efforts of maize, Buckler said. "We're tapping the wisdom of farmers over the last 10,000 years to make the next century's corn."

Sarah Hearne, a molecular geneticist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and a maize research lead scientist with Seeds of Discovery, is also a senior author of the paper. J. Alberto Romero Navarro, a doctoral student in plant breeding and genetics, is the paper's first author.

Hearne and colleagues at CIMMYT envisioned the project, led the logistical efforts and conducted field trials, while Romero, Buckler and Cornell colleagues led the genomic analysis of the data.
-end-
The study was supported by Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food through the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture initiative. Additional support from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Cornell University and the National Science Foundation facilitated the completion of the data analysis.

Cornell University

Related Genetics Articles:

Genetics researchers find new neurodevelopmental syndrome
Researchers have identified a gene mutation that causes developmental delay, intellectual disability, behavioral abnormalities and musculoskeletal problems in children.
The genetics of cancer
A research team has identified a new circular RNA (ribonucleic acid) that increases tumor activity in soft tissue and connective tissue tumors.
New results on fungal genetics
An international team of researchers has found unusual genetic features in fungi of the order Trichosporonales.
Mouse genetics influences the microbiome more than environment
Genetics has a greater impact on the microbiome than maternal birth environment, at least in mice, according to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
New insights into genetics of fly longevity
Alexey Moskalev, Ph.D., Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Radiobiology and Gerontology Institute of Biology, and co-authors from the Institute of biology of Komi Science Center of RAS, Engelgard's Institute of molecular biology, involved in the study of the aging mechanisms and longevity of model animals announce the publication of a scientific article titled: 'The Neuronal Overexpression of Gclc in Drosophila melanogaster Induces Life Extension With Longevity-Associated Transcriptomic Changes in the Thorax' in Frontiers in Genetics - a leading open science platform.
More Genetics News and Genetics Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...