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Scientists develop a method to allow trees to flower in mere months

Date: 16.12.2022 

When scientists want to improve a variety of vegetable, it can take a year or less to see changes – just the length of a reproductive cycle. But breeding improvements into trees can take years – sometimes decades – before changes can be seen. Now, a process developed by researchers at the University of Georgia may cut that time to a fraction.

Kredit: C.J. Tsai.Using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, C.J. Tsai of the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and Franklin College of Arts and Sciences has developed a method that shortens the time it takes a poplar tree to flower, from about seven to 10 years to just a few months. By reducing this timeframe, it can accelerate tree breeding for improved traits, such as cold or drought tolerance.

"Previous methods for inducing early flowers in poplars was inconsistent and labor intensive. This is a major barrier to research," said Tsai, the Winfred N. "Hank" Haynes Professor and eminent scholar with the Georgia Research Alliance.

"But using CRISPR to edit a flowering repressor gene, we are able to compress the flowering time from more than seven years to three to four months, and the yearlong floral organ development period down to a few days."

The method could be a game-changer in the world of tree research, where projects may take decades compared with research on food crops. By shortening the time it takes for a tree to flower, researchers can perform controlled crosses and more quickly assess traits of interest. For example, traits to help trees better tolerate drought or extreme temperatures could be tested in a smaller timeframe.

Image source: C.J. Tsai.





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