Plant hormone that controls shoot branching discovered

August 12th, 2008 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 12 (IANS) The discovery of a new plant hormone that controls shoot branching is likely to impact forestry, plant science and agriculture industries. A molecule with a specific four-ring structure in plant hormone strigolactone has been shown to inhibit shoot branching in plants.

“It could be used to increase yield in horticultural industries and manual pruning may be circumvented through the use of the natural strigolactones,” said principal investigator Christine Beveridge of University of Queensland (UQ).

“Because strigolactones are natural compounds which directly control shoot branching, they can be applied without the use of gene transfer technologies and have minimal side effects on the plant,” Beveridge added.

The number of branches can be altered by adding the compound directly to the buds or by supplying it in a solution into the stem. Too many branches on a tree could siphon the energy from the trunk and cause poor growth.

Beveridge said the manual removal of branches was labour intensive and it was hoped this finding would lead to a natural chemical approach to prevent branches from forming in the first place.

She said strigolactones were also responsible for the germination of parasitic weeds that cause huge losses in yields of staple food crops in Africa and Asia.

“Our discovery provides the first biosynthetic mutants to study these important interactions with plants and to develop ways of plant improvement and weed management.

“We are very excited about this discovery because hormones in plants and animals are an amazingly powerful and natural way to modify and investigate growth and development.”

Beveridge collaborated on the project with Elizabeth Dun and Philip Brewer from the Australian Research Council.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

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