Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Scientists discover cold climate crop gene

Plants in cold climate (On Ellesmere Island)
Image caption Scientists have found a gene that limits the growth of plants in cool environments

Scientists have discovered how to help crops flourish in cold climates.

A study by researchers at Edinburgh and York universities have identified a gene that limits the growth of plants in cool environments.

The protein, known as the spatula gene, is thought to help plants adjust to lower temperatures.

But by manipulating the gene, researchers believe they could produce the opposite effect leading to crops which are suited to cooler climates.

Dr Karen Halliday, from Edinburgh University's school of biological sciences, said: "We have pinpointed a key gene linked to the growth of plants according to the temperature. This could be of real interest in improving crop yields and food security in temperate climates."

A type of cress was used in the study, which found that its leaves grew almost twice as much in cold temperatures when levels of the spatula gene were low.

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Royal Society, was published in the journal Current Biology.

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