This research highlights a single letter change in their DNA code can potentially decide whether a plant is a lark or a night owl. The findings may help farmers and crop breeders to select plants with clocks that are best suited to their location, helping to boost yield and even the ability to withstand climate change.
The circadian clock is the molecular metronome which guides organisms through day and night -- cockadoodledooing the arrival of morning and drawing the curtains closed at night. In plants, it regulates a wide range of processes, from priming photosynthesis at dawn through to regulating flowering time.
These rhythmic patterns can vary depending on geography, latitude, climate and seasons -- with plant clocks having to adapt to cope best with the local conditions.
Researchers at the Earlham Institute and John Innes Centre in Norwich wanted to better understand how much circadian variation exists naturally, with the ultimate goal of breeding crops that are more resilient to local changes in the environment -- a pressing threat with climate change.
To investigate the genetic basis of these local differences, the team examined varying circadian rhythms in Swedish Arabidopsis plants to identify and validate genes linked to the changing tick of the clock.
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