Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Grass Offers Clues To Growing Corn In Cooler Climes, Researchers Report

Date:
September 17, 2008
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
A giant perennial grass used as a biofuels source has a much longer growing season than corn, and researchers think they've found the secret of its success. Their findings should help develop cold-tolerant corn, significantly boosting per-acre yields.

A protein that gives Miscanthus an advantage in cool weather may be used to develop cold-tolerant corn varieties.
Credit: Photo by Don Hamerman

A giant perennial grass used as a biofuels source has a much longer growing season than corn, and researchers think they've found the secret of its success. Their findings offer a promising avenue for developing cold-tolerant corn, an advance that would significantly boost per-acre yields.

Related Articles


The new study, from researchers at University of Illinois, appears this month in Plant Physiology Preview.

Miscanthus x giganteus is one of the most productive grasses known. It is able to capture the sun's energy even as cool temperatures shut down photosynthesis in other plants.

In Illinois, green Miscanthus leaves emerge up to six weeks before corn can be planted. Miscanthus thrives into late October, while corn leaves wither at the end of August.

Corn and Miscanthus are C4 plants, which are more efficient than C3 plants in converting sunlight into leaves and stalks. (C3 and C4 simply refer to the number of carbon atoms in a molecule critical to photosynthesis.)

"The C4 process differs from C3 in having just four extra steps in its metabolism," said Stephen Long, a professor of crop sciences and principal investigator on the study. "There are four extra proteins in this process, so we assumed that these proteins are related to low temperature tolerance."

When they compared the levels of these proteins in plants grown in warm and cold conditions, the researchers noticed that one of the proteins, pyruvate phosphate dikinase (PPDK), was present at much higher levels in the Miscanthus leaves grown at cool temperatures than in the leaves of either corn or Miscanthus grown in warmer conditions.

Although photosynthesis declined in both plants when they were first subjected to cool temperatures, after two days, photosynthesis rebounded in the Miscanthus.

The increase corresponded to the upsurge in PPDK in its leaves.

"After seven days PPDK was 10 times the level it was in the warm conditions," Long said.

In C4 plants, PPDK catalyzes a chemical reaction in the leaf critical to the cascade of reactions that convert carbon from carbon dioxide into starches that form the plant's tissues.

Previous studies had shown that PPDK is generally not very stable in cold conditions. The protein is made up of four subunits, which tend to come apart at low temperatures, Long said.

To test how cold temperatures affect the protein when it is expressed in cells at high concentrations, post-doctoral fellow Dafu Wang cloned the PPDK gene into E. coli bacteria to produce large quantities of the protein.

"What he showed in the test tube was that if you concentrate the protein, then it becomes more resistant to cold," Long said. "At higher concentration the protein creates its own microenvironment where in the cold it doesn't come apart. This appears to be the secret of success for Miscanthus at low temperature: Expressing more of the protein allows it to photosynthesize at low temperature where corn can't."

The next step for the researchers is to develop a corn plant in which this gene is expressed at high levels to determine if that will make the corn more tolerant of low temperatures, Long said. Cold weather after emergence of corn in the spring or in late summer during grain-filling can limit photosynthesis, he said.

"This change should make corn more resistant to these cold weather events."

The National Science Foundation supported this research. The research team is also affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois and the USDA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Giant Grass Offers Clues To Growing Corn In Cooler Climes, Researchers Report." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915121331.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2008, September 17). Giant Grass Offers Clues To Growing Corn In Cooler Climes, Researchers Report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915121331.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Giant Grass Offers Clues To Growing Corn In Cooler Climes, Researchers Report." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915121331.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins