A new gene may help plants to adapt to different climates and maximize grain production, says a new study.
The newly characterized VRN-D4 gene and its three counterpart genes which were earlier identified are crucial for understanding wheat vernalization, the biological process requiring cold temperatures to trigger flower formation, said the study.
"The VRN-D4 gene and the other three vernalization genes can be used by plant breeders to modify vernalization requirements as they work to develop wheat varieties that are better adapted to different regions or changing environments," said Dr. Nestor Kippes, from University of California.
Wheat first appeared about 8,000 years ago in the coastal area of the Caspian Sea, where Europe and Asia converge. It quickly spread through both continents and now grows worldwide.
Scientists attribute its adaptability to its rapidly changing genome and the fact that most types of wheat have two or three sets of chromosomes.
"We are extremely interested in understanding the adaptive changes, especially vernalization, which occurred in wheat during the early expansion of agriculture," Kippes noted.
Because vernalization governs flowering time, it is important to a plant's reproductive success and key to maximizing grain production in wheat, barley and other cereal crops, Kippes explained.
Although the world produces more than 700 million tonnes of wheat annually, the rapidly growing global human population continues to press for even greater production of wheat and other staple crops. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences