Food shortages and plant genes

November 2nd, 2011
Food shortages and plant genes
The global population hit the 7 billion mark Monday 31 October. However, 850 to 925 million people are already experiencing food shortages and with only 46 per cent of the 2.3 billion metric tons of cereal grain produced daily being consumed by humans, the world’s new population faces food insecurity.

La Trobe University Professor of Botany, Roger Parish, and his team have been working on new technology for hybrid seed production which will not only have considerable economic advantages for Australian agriculture but may also be a line of defence as food supplies decline.

‘We have discovered a ‘Godfather’ gene that acts as a master switch in the pollen production process. We can manipulate the activity of the gene. It can be turned off to prevent pollen production and allow crossing with the pollen of a different line—outbreeding. The gene is subsequently reactivated in the hybrid plant, thereby ensuring pollen production occurs and hybrid grain is produced.’

‘This gene is present in wheat, barley, canola, cotton and rice meaning the technology is applicable to all these important crops,’ says Professor Parish.

‘Hybrid vigour is a way to increase yield in plants and in this world where we are running out of food very quickly, any way to increase production is important and hybrid vigour can increase production by up to 30 per cent,’ says Professor Parish.

Provided by La Trobe University

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

New research signals big future for quantum radar

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University ...

Spotify deals with random shuffle and we mortals

How do we mortals perceive random sequences? An entry in the question-and-answer site Quora focused on a question involving a music-streaming service Spotify. That question signifies how we perceive what ...

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

Cats put sight over smell in finding food

Cats may prefer to use their eyes rather than follow their nose when it comes to finding the location of food, according to new research by leading animal behaviourists.

Living in the genetic comfort zone

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...