Manipulating plants’ circadian clock may make all-season crops possible

Yale University researchers have identified a key genetic gear that keeps the circadian clock of plants ticking, a finding that could have broad implications for global agriculture.

“Farmers are limited by the seasons, but by understanding the circadian rhythm of plants, which controls basic functions such as photosynthesis and flowering, we might be able to engineer plants that can grow in different seasons and places than is currently possible,” said Xing Wang Deng, senior author of the paper.

The Yale research solved one of the last remaining mysteries in this process when they identified the gene DET1 as crucial in helping to suppress expression of the evening genes in the circadian cycle.

“Plants that make less DET1 have a faster clock and they take less time to flower,” said lead author On Sun Lau, a former Yale graduate student who is now at Stanford University. “Knowing the components of the plant’s circadian clock and their roles would assist in the selection or generation of valuable traits in crop and ornamental plants.”

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