Growing pains and how that might affect seed quality

Sorghum harvest. Credit: Claire Benjamin/Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, CC BY 2.0

How healthy a plant matures depends on how well it grows during its early life stages, which is not a surprise to anyone who has raised children.


And in the face of mounting pressures, like inconsistent temperature patterns or the burden to produce more for us due to the lack of new arable land, plant health might be taking a beating.

Sang-Jin Kim and the Brandizzi lab are interested in making plants more productive and resilient in the face of these challenges so we can meet our own, like feeding a burgeoning global population or powering our cars and airplanes with sustainable biofuels.

In a study published in the journal Planta, Sang-Jin and his colleagues show how early stages of plant development, when seeds develop, are a turbulent time for a plant.

How well it can manage internal and environmental pressures is crucial to yield quality later on, and exposure to at such a young age could be bad.

Protecting biofuel plants

Many of the nutrients that we get or the stuff that ends up in biofuels are created by proteins, which, in plant cells, are produced at massive secretory production centers called the .

“We were interested in the proteins that produce carbs that go into new seeds, specifically in plants targeted for producing biofuels, like sorghum or switch grass. The more you can pack those carbs in a seed, the more the yield later on.”

Like any manufacturing center, the endoplasmic reticulum has a control mechanism, known as the unfolded protein response (UPR) when things go wrong.

“The endoplasmic reticulum might produce defective proteins, and that happens for many reasons, like high environmental or a heavy load of…

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