As per the recent discovery, plant breeders and geneticists have been successful in finding and propagating high yield, disease resistant, climate tolerant crops that could be made available to the world's farmers.
Since 1920s, there are many crops which have grown from hybrid seeds. These hybrids can have superior qualities in areas such as yield or pest resistance. However, the seeds of hybrid crops don't produce plants with the same qualities.
The ability to produce a clone, of a plant from its seeds would be a major breakthrough for the agriculture world. Instead of purchasing hybrid seeds every year, farmers could replant seeds from their own hybrid plants and derive the benefits of high yields year after year.
It has come to notice that nearly 400 species of wild plants can produce viable seeds sans any fertilization.
Researchers have discovered that the rice gene BBM1, belonging to a family of plant genes called 'Baby Boom' or BBM, is expressed in sperm cells but not in eggs. Post fertlization, BBM1 is expressed in the fertilized cell but at least initially, the expression comes from the male contribution to the genome.
The researches initially used gene editing to prevent the plants from going through meiosis. Instead, the egg cells form by mitosis, inherited a full set of chromosomes from the mother.
Hence, resulting in a diploid egg cell with the ability to make an embryo that grows into a clonal seed.
Till now, the process has an efficiency of about 30%. The researchers are in a hope that efficiency can be increased with more research. Similar approach could be applied in cereal crops too which have equivalent BBM1 genes.
It will not be wrong to say that basic biology has resulted in major results. This work addresses fundamental questions in plant biology about how a fertilized egg begins to develop into a new plant.
This basic understanding has paved a way in plant agriculture by avoiding the loss of beneficial traits that can occur through sexual reproduction.
Image Credit: North Folk Agriculture
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