Mutational Analysis of Root Characters in Annual Food Plants Related to Plant Performance

Objective:

To assist Member States in the application of mutation techniques and related biotechnology to generate and utilize mutants for the identification of root properties and genes for improvement of productivity and sustainability of crop plants.

Specific research objectives:

  • To make mutational analysis of some of the essential characters related to root formation and function.
  • To assess the impact of specific root traits on yield potential under field conditions leading to the exploitation of these traits in future breeding programs.

Activities:

The genetic analysis of root traits has been neglected largely because of the difficulty in accessing this below ground organ. Consequently, few root mutants of crop plants have been described to date. The paucity of root mutants has resulted in the inability to evaluate specific root traits in breeding programs. However, some changes in attitude are developing and root associated genes have recently been identified for wheat and rice. An important area of root function relates to the development of specific associations with the soil microflora in the rhizosphere. The general occurrence of mycorrhizal associations among crop species offers a special opportunity to assess the impact of altered root features of agronomic significants. The achievements in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana demonstrate the power of employing a genetic approach for the identification of key genes determining root characters. Subsequent cloning of the affected genes has revealed a number of functions such as transcription factors, ion carriers etc. that are involved in root growth and development.

It is therefore timely that a similar mutational analysis should be applied to crop plant root systems. The objective of the CRP is to assist Member States in the application of mutation techniques and related biotechnology to generate and utilise mutants for the identification of root properties and genes for improvement of productivity and sustainability of crop plants. Potential crops to be included: barley, maize, rice, sorghum, teff, wheat, bean, chickpea, faba bean, pea, soybean and tomato. Expected research outputs: selection, evaluation and genetic analysis of promising mutants with desired root types and altered soil penetration habits; development of a strategy to determine the nutritional impact of mutants; determination of the genetic basis of architectural and functional changes in roots; identification of important ontogenetic checkpoints in architectural development; development of efficient screening systems for a variety of root functions; development of strategies for utilization of genetic traits to enhance the plant benefit from the symbiotic association with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; development of strategy for the use of root system mutants in cross breeding programs; development of a root network for exchange of information between root laboratories in developed and developing countries by generation of a data base for the identification and naming of mutants.

Participants:

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Reports:

  • Report of the First RCM, Vienna, Austria, 2000.

Project Officer:

P.J.L. Lagoda