Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Huge Corn Plants Developed: Doubling A Gene In Corn Results In Giant Biomass

Date:
March 11, 2009
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
A plant geneticist has developed a corn plant with enormous potential for biomass, literally. It yields corn that would make good silage, the researcher said, due to a greater number of leaves and larger stalk, which could also make it a good energy crop.

Researchers compare various ears of corn. University of Illinois plant geneticist Stephen Moose has developed a corn plant with enormous potential for biomass.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois plant geneticist Stephen Moose has developed a corn plant with enormous potential for biomass, literally. It yields corn that would make good silage, Moose said, due to a greater number of leaves and larger stalk, which could also make it a good energy crop.

The gene known as Glossy 15 was originally described for its role in giving corn seedlings a waxy coating that acts like a sun screen for the young plant. Without Glossy 15, seedling leaves instead appear shiny and glossy in sunlight. Further studies have shown that the main function of Glossy15 is to slow down shoot maturation. Moose wondered what would happen if they turned up the action of this gene. "What happens is that you get bigger plants, possibly because they're more sensitive to the longer days of summer. We put a corn gene back in the corn and increased its activity. So, it makes the plant slow down and gets much bigger at the end of the season."

The ears of corn have fewer seeds compared to the normal corn plant and could be a good feed for livestock. "Although there is less grain there is more sugar in the stalks, so we know the animal can eat it and they'll probably like it." This type of corn plant may fit the grass-fed beef standard, Moose said.

"The first time I did this, I thought, well, maybe the seeds just didn't get pollinated very well, so I hand pollinated these ears to make sure. I found that just like the shoot, seed development is also slower and they just don't make it all the way to the end with a plump kernel," Moose said.

He explained that the energy to make the seed goes instead into the stalk and leaves. "We had been working with this gene for awhile. We thought there would be more wax on the leaves and there was. But we also got this other benefit, that it's a lot bigger."

Moose tested his hypothesis with other corn lines and the effect was the same. "We essentially can make any corn variety bigger with this gene. And it can be done in one cross and we know exactly which gene does it."

He noted that if you put too much of the Glossy 15 gene in, it slows down the growth too much and the frost kills the plant before it can grow.

One advantage to growing sugar corn for biomass rather than switchgrass or miscanthus is that sugar corn is an annual. Moose said that if it would attract a pest or develop a disease, farmers could rotate a different crop the next year.

Moose said that sugar corn might make a good transition crop.

"We think it might take off as a livestock feed, because it's immediate," Moose said. "This would be most useful for on-farm feeding. So a farmer who has 50 steers, could grow this and use the corn as feed and sell the stalks and sugar. It could be an alternative silage, because it has a longer harvest window than regular silage."

For this sugar corn plant to become commercialized, it would have to get government approval, but Moose said that this is about as safe a gene as you can get. "It's a gene that's already in the corn – all we did was to put an extra copy in that amps it up."

Findings from this research were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.


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. "Huge Corn Plants Developed: Doubling A Gene In Corn Results In Giant Biomass." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302120106.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2009, March 11). Huge Corn Plants Developed: Doubling A Gene In Corn Results In Giant Biomass. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302120106.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Huge Corn Plants Developed: Doubling A Gene In Corn Results In Giant Biomass." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090302120106.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
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