Scientists Discover Gene That Increases Wheat Harvest By 20%

Oxford University research scientists have formulated a crop spray which will increase a farmer’s wheat harvest by twenty percent. What’s unique about the formulation is that the spray does not require genetic modifying. A molecule discovered in plants, fosters efficient use of sugar fuel-like substance, during photosynthesis. With more of this fuel-like substance, plants can generate larger grains.


The sugar, in the plants, that has its capacity increases, to stimulate growth is sugar trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P). Trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P) regulates how wheat utilizes sucrose, a key component in wheat grain development. With such a beneficial discovery, the Great Britain Department of Environment is contemplating a closely monitored field trial. The trial would be for GM wheat grains in Hertfordshire.


Though the discovery is good news, this isn’t the first time agricultural crops are being modified or manipulated to produce greater yields. While greater yields are embraced, genetic modification has its share of controversy over the last 20 years. Opponents to genetic modification and manipulation can bring harm to the human body and disrupt the eco-system.


With the new technique discovered, as described in the journal Nature, proponents contend it is much safer and cost efficient for farmers. Farmers would apply the formulation with a crop sprayer. Field research demonstrated that crop yields increased after just one spray application.


Department of Chemistry at Oxford, professor Benjamin Davis, commented, “The tests we conducted show real promise for a technique that, in the future, could radically alter how we farm not just wheat but many different crops. By now developing new chemical methods based on an understanding of biology, we can secure our food sources and add to this legacy.”


Worldwide, rice, corn, and wheat are the three most popular staple crops harvested. With anticipated population growth, agricultural crop yields must increase 70%, in the next 35 years. While contemporary technology with fertilizers and plant breeding have stimulated an increase in harvest yields, scientists think natural growth capacity has reached its limit.


Dr. Matthew Paul, Plant Biology and Crop Science, Rothamsted Research, Senior Scientist, remarked: “This study is a proof of concept, showing us that it is possible to influence how plants use the fuel they produce for agricultural benefit.”


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