Genetic Engineering of Plants to Control Flowering (extract)
New Scientist 12 July 97
Genetic engineering of plants to control floweing is well under way. George Coupland and other geneticists have identified four main groups of flowering genes out of a pool of 30 in the wall cress Arabidopsis thaliana. One group of genes has emerged that several plants share which can switch a shoot to make flowers. The LEAFY gene has been genetically altered in a variety of species including aspen to disrupt the normal system of gene interactions to push the individual to floweing, resulting in a variety of effects from marginal to extreme cases of dwarf plants which flower and die. It has been suggested this could cut the time tree breeders need to do selective breeding on tree stocks.
Rene Sung at Berkeley has also identified leafy shoot growth genes which when absent cause seeds to produce only a short flowering stem and die.Another gene called TERMINAL which is active at the tip of flowering spikes is common to Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum. The workers suggest genetic flower-arranging is just around the corner.