A multinational research team identified a cluster of genes in common wheat that regulate root growth, which may be significant for culturing drought-resistant types, the University of Haifa (UH) in northern Israel said this week.
Researchers from China, the United States, Argentina and Israel found that wheat plants with loss-of-function mutations in the OPR-III gene cluster show longer seminal roots, whereas increased OPR-III dosage or transgenic over-expression results in reduced seminal root growth and premature lateral roots.
They also discovered that the genes can determine root growth rate through the secretion of a hormone, shows the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
The discovery will make it possible to develop wheat cultivars with longer roots to reach deeper layers of the soil and to absorb more water and nutrients, which can significantly improve yields in arid conditions and low precipitation, said the UH in a statement.
“This is the first time that a gene associated with drought tolerance has been discovered and its function is validated in wheat,” Gilad Gabay, the first author of an article published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, was quoted as saying.
The new finding became possible after the complete complex genome of the common wheat was sequenced five years ago in a study in which the university was a partner. ■