Reducing shade avoidance responses in a cereal crop

Selected mutant lines of wheat and two non-mutated cultivars (Amaretto and Triso) grown in light at different red:far red ratios. (Photo credit: Wille et al.)

Sun-loving plants react to changes in light quality caused by neighbouring plants via “shade avoidance” responses, including vertical elongation, upward orientation of leaves and reduced branching/tillering. Such responses are favoured by natural selection because they increase the fitness of individuals, but they can be disadvantageous for crops because they reduce the allocation of resources to reproductive yield, increase the risk of lodging, and reduce weed suppression. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Wille et al. took a step towards the development of varieties of wheat with reduced shade avoidance by inducing mutations followed by phenotypic screening. The most promising mutant line did not differ in height from non-mutated cultivars under normal conditions or neutral shade, but elongated much less in strong far-red light.

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