An EU-funded project is looking into ways of improving the productivity of crops by extending the lifespan of leaves
The constantly growing global demand for plant products means that scientists need to come up with new ways to improve crop productivity and sustainability. One promising approach is to engineer plant crops with prolonged leaf lifespan, which will result in longer photosynthetic periods and thus better productivity.
The 'Enhanced plant productivity through control of lifespan' (CROPLIFE) project aims to improve leaf lifespan through molecular biology and genetic engineering. The project focuses on the model crop species barley (Hordeum vulgare) and ryegrass (Lolium perenne), which are both well-studied plants.
Researchers identified several molecular markers for senescence (programmed cell death) in barley, which can be used to study leaf lifespan. This information was used to choose senescence-associated transcription factors (proteins that regulate when senescence can occur) for further study.
In ryegrass, mutant lines that mature earlier than normal plants have been identified. Other genetic variations linked to changes in lifespan and senescence have also been found.
CROPLIFE has used the knowledge gained so far to produce several mutated barley and ryegrass lines, enabling researchers to now identify the key regulators of senescence. Further work will focus on engineering mutant barley and ryegrass with extended leaf lifespans.
Provided by Cordis