Research shows progress in breeding crops that thrive in changing climates.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh claim to have gained “fresh insights into plant growth” which they say will advance the development of crops that thrive in changing climates.

The claim surrounds a new computer model that shows how plants grow under varying conditions, enabling scientists to investigate how variations in light, day length, temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influence the biological pathways that control growth and flowering in plants.

“The more we understand the underlying reasons governing plant growth in different varieties, the better equipped we will be to breed crop varieties with stable, high yields in the future,” said the University’s School of Biological Sciences’ Professor Andrew Millar.

Research to date has identified “differences in the way some plant varieties distribute nutrients under varying conditions” which results in some plants developing leaves and fruit that are “smaller but more abundant than others”.

The study team says their findings give “valuable insights into how plants adapt to ensure survival in less favourable conditions”.

The work, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the Darwin Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the European Commission.

In addition to the team in Edinburgh, there was also collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Germany, Aberystwyth University and Cirad-Amis in France.

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