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Crops can be cloned

Clonal reproduction of crop species took a step closer to being realised with new research published in PLoS Biology.

This new paper blurs the line between the two different types of cell division by showing a plant where three specific mutations are experimentally combined. These divisions are normally meiotic – which make pollen and egg cells – and are replaced by mitotic divisions.

The work, by a team of researchers in France and Austria, is potentially very important commercially, because it makes the creation of stable new mutant crops—such as plants of a different colour, or with a different yield, etc.—much simpler. It is now much closer to being possible to reproduce a plant that produces perfect potatoes, maize or rice, without the lottery of reassortment that each meiotic division and ensuing fertilization introduces.

The authors have made a form of asexual reproduction possible in a normally sexual species. Turning meiosis into mitosis is not enough to reach clonal reproduction, but it's a giant leap towards it. This has potential revolutionary applications in crop improvement and propagation.

by S. C.
15 june 2009, Technical Area > Science News