Sugar responsible for shoot branching in plants

Apr 07, 2014 by Christine Beveridge
Sugar responsible for shoot branching in plants

(Phys.org) —A University of Queensland study has overturned the long-held belief that plant hormones control the shape of plant growth, and shown instead that this process starts with sugar.

Shoot branching in is a vital process in agriculture and this finding will contribute toward the Queensland Government's goal to double by 2040 and the global need to increase food production.

Senior author on the study, Professor Christine Beveridge from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, said this finding will help to increase crop productivity by improving plant structure.

"The growth of shoots and number of branches are very important to productivity and profitability, particularly in crops like avocado, macadamia and mango," she said.

"We discovered that this process is initiated by sugar rather than hormones as previously believed.

"This discovery is so simple yet it has been overlooked for nearly a century."

Previous studies have focused on the as the regulator of shoot branching.

Professor Beveridge and her team showed that shoot branching can begin up to 24 hours before auxin levels change, so it cannot be responsible for initiating this process.

Instead they found that shoot growth occurs when a high concentration of simple sugar (table sugar) - produced by the plant through photosynthesis - is available.

"Plants have a 'goliath' main shoot which hoards the sugars to promote its growth," Professor Beveridge said.

"If the main shoot is damaged or removed the sugars are quickly redistributed to start the growth of new shoots.

"As gardeners know, deliberately removing the main shoot will direct a plant's growth outward rather than upward, which can be very important in agriculture."

UQ is working with The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL), NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to transform the productivity and profitability of tropical and subtropical tree crops.

Dr John Wilkie, Principal Horticulturalist and head of this initiative within DAFF, said that this discovery would aid further research into how tree crops divide between tree growth and fruiting.

"Manipulating the number of branches can optimise the production of fruit and seeds, leading to greater agricultural productivity," he said.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 7 April 2014.

Explore further: Bacteria to aid sutainable sugarcane production

More information: "Sugar demand, not auxin, is the initial regulator of apical dominance" www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/04/04/1322045111

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Plant branching hormone discovered

Jul 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an important breakthrough, plant biologists at The University of Queensland have identified a hormone that plays a key role in determining the size and shape of plants.

Shaping the plants of the future

Jul 28, 2011

A hormone that determines the size and shape of crops could improve harvests, and help in the control of a vampire plant according to Queensland researchers presenting their work today at the International Botanical Congress ...

Recommended for you

Parasitic worm genomes: largest-ever dataset released

7 hours ago

The largest collection of helminth genomic data ever assembled has been published in the new, open-access WormBase-ParaSite. Developed jointly by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, this new ...

Bitter food but good medicine from cucumber genetics

Nov 27, 2014

High-tech genomics and traditional Chinese medicine come together as researchers identify the genes responsible for the intense bitter taste of wild cucumbers. Taming this bitterness made cucumber, pumpkin ...

New button mushroom varieties need better protection

Nov 27, 2014

A working group has recently been formed to work on a better protection of button mushroom varieties. It's activities are firstly directed to generate consensus among the spawn/breeding companies to consider ...

Cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes

Nov 25, 2014

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium, in which INRA participates, has developed the most ...

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.