Discovery in orange cauliflower may lead to more nutritious crops

Jun 04, 2007
Orange Cauliflower
Orange cauliflower. Credit: Cornell University

While orange cauliflower may seem unappealing to some, it has distinct nutritional advantages. Now, Cornell researchers have identified the genetic mutation behind the unusual hue. The finding may lead to more nutritious staple crops, including maize, potato, rice, sorghum and wheat.

The genetic mutation recently isolated by Cornell plant geneticist Li Li and colleagues -- and described in the December issue of The Plant Cell -- allows the vegetable to hold more beta-carotene, which causes the orange color and is a precursor to the essential nutrient vitamin A. While cauliflower and many staple crops have the ability to synthesize beta-carotene, they are limited partially because they lack a "metabolic sink," or a place to store the compound.

Developing staple crops with more vitamin A is important because vitamin A deficiency, common in developing countries, leads to compromised immune systems and is the leading cause of blindness in children.

"A large percentage of the human population depends on staple crops for nutrition," said Li, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics and a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Agricultural Research Service's U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell. "The research provides a possible new technique for genetically modifying staple crops to increase their ability to store beta-carotene and increase nutritional content in staple crops."

Other researchers have created "golden rice" by inserting several genes that increases the synthesis of beta-carotene. But this technique has proved less effective in many plants. Li's research, which increases a plant's ability to store beta-carotene, may offer an alternate and complementary technique for making staple crops more nutritious.

Li, in collaboration with Joyce Van Eck from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell, is currently working on transgenic potatoes, altering genes to increase both the metabolic sink and beta-carotene synthesis.

Orange cauliflower was first discovered in a farmer's white cauliflower field in Canada about 30 years ago and is now available at supermarkets.

Source: Cornell University

Explore further: End of the dinosaurs gave rise to the modern 'Age of Fishes,' researchers find

Related Stories

Meeting to cover cleanup plan for former nuke missile site

2 hours ago

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to hold a public meeting about a proposal to use vegetable oil to stimulate the growth of naturally occurring bacteria that would clean up groundwater at a former nuclear missile site.

Recommended for you

Can pollution help trees fight infection?

11 hours ago

Trees that can tolerate soil pollution are also better at defending themselves against pests and pathogens. "It looks like the very act of tolerating chemical pollution may give trees an advantage from biological ...

Improving rice flour to aid food poverty

11 hours ago

A new, high-quality rice flour could help towards aiding global food poverty. "This rice flour serves not only as an alternative to wheat flour for those with wheat intolerance, but could also help to overcome ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.