New plant-growing technique could protect imperiled crops

A new technique for grafting plants could increase production and eliminate diseases for some of the world’s most imperiled crops, such as bananas and date palms.

Plant grafting, where the root of one plant is attached to the shoot of another, has been used in agriculture for thousands of years to improve crop growth and eradicate diseases, in plants such as apples and citrus fruits. But this technique wasn’t thought to work for a major group of plants: the monocotyledons (or monocots). This group includes all grasses like wheat and oats, as well as other high-value crops like bananas and date palms. These plants lack a tissue called vascular cambium, which helps grafts heal and fuse in many other plants.

Now, Julian Hibberd at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have found an approach that allows monocots to be grafted. They extracted a form of embryonic plant tissue from inside a monocot plant seed and applied it to the potential graft site between two monocot specimens belonging to the same species – wheat, for instance.

The method appeared to work on a wide range of monocot plant families, including important crops such as pineapple, banana, onion, tequila agave, oil palm, and date palm. The team’s preliminary studies in the lab also suggest that grafting can work between species. They grafted a wheat shoot to disease-resistant oat roots. This may protect the wheat from soil-borne disease, although it is still unclear whether this protection would be feasible in the real world.

Read the complete article at

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04247-y 

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