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2-Plants: UK scientists announce GE crops to cope with climate change

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TITLE:  Growing crops to cope with climate change
SOURCE: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK
DATE:   18 Jan 2006

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Growing crops to cope with climate change

Scientists at the UK's leading plant science centre have uncovered a
gene that could help to develop new varieties of crop that will be able
to cope with the changing world climate. Researchers funded by the
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at the
John Innes Centre in Norwich have identified the gene in barley that
controls how the plant responds to seasonal changes in the length of the
day. This is key to understanding how plants have adapted their
flowering behaviour to different environments.

The John Innes Centre researchers have discovered that the Ppd-H1 gene
in barley controls the timing of the activity of another gene called CO.
When the length of the day is long enoughCO activates one of the key
genes that triggers flowering. Naturally occurring variation in Ppd-H1
affects the time of day when CO is activated. This shifts the time of
year that the plant flowers.

Dr David Laurie, the research leader at the John Innes Centre, said,
"Growing crops will become more difficult as the global climate changes.
The varieties of crops grown in the UK are suited to the soil, seasons
and traditional cool, wet summers. Later flowering in barley means it
has a longer growing period to amass yield. If British summers get
hotter and drier we will need types of wheat, barley and other crops
that flower earlier, like Mediterranean varieties, to beat summer
droughts. However, new varieties will need to be adapted in all other
ways to UK conditions."

With the new knowledge about the workings of barley researchers and
plant breeders will find it easier to select variations that will thrive
in the UK environment but will also flower earlier, coping with hotter

Dr Laurie commented, "Although our research has been on barley we know
from observation that other crops show similar variation in the way they
respond to the lengthening of the day in springtime. We are confident
that we will find equivalent genes in other key crops."

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, said, "Climate change
presents a huge challenge for the world. Although every effort must be
concentrated on reducing the impact of human activity on the
environment, science should also be answering questions about how we can
live in an altered climate. Research such as this helps to present
answers to some of these problems."



Dr David Laurie, John Innes Centre
Tel: 01603 450 610, e-mail:

Matt Goode, BBSRC Media Officer
Tel: 01793 413299, e-mail:
Notes to Editors

This research appears in the January 2006 issue of BBSRC Business, the
quarterly research magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council.

The John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich, UK is an independent, world-
leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences. The JIC has
over 850 staff and students. JIC carries out high quality fundamental,
strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes
work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains
scientists and students, collaborates with many other research
laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general
public. The JIC is grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research Council.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is
the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by
Government, BBSRC annually invests around £336 million in a wide range
of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life
for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial
stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and
pharmaceutical sectors.


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