In wheat and barley there is a gene that regulates the angle of growth of plant roots: called EGT1, and it could be used in the future to develop new varieties of cereals with deeper roots and less prone to drought and nutrient deficiencies. Effects of climate change. The discovery was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by an international research group that includes the University of Adelaide (Australia), the University of Nottingham (Great Britain), Penn State University (USA) and the University of Bologna.
With images captured underground thanks to X-ray microscopy, “we found that plants in which the EGT1 gene is disrupted develop roots with a steeper growth angle,” notes the study’s first author, Haoyu Lou of the University of Adelaide. “Surprisingly, the roots behave as if they were more sensitive to gravity: they can no longer grow outward but grow straight downward.”
This alters their ability to absorb water and nutrients from different soil layers, notes Rahul Bhusal of the University of Nottingham. “Shallow roots better capture the phosphate that accumulates in the surface layers of the soil, while the steeper roots are better for searching for water and nitrate in the deeper layers. The steeper roots – adds the expert – are also important to help sequester carbon deep in the soil. Discovering genes such as EGT1 and how to control the angle of root growth is critical to developing new crop varieties that better capture nutrients and carbon.”
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