Scientists Find Way to Alter Plant Growth

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 20 (UPI) — Israeli scientists say they’ve found a way to significantly boost the production of plants used to make biofuels by discovering a way to control auxin.

Tel Aviv University Professor Shaul Yalovsky said auxin is a powerful plant growth hormone that tells plants how to grow, where to lay down roots, how to make tissues and how to respond to light and gravity. Yalovsky said knowing how to manipulate auxin could have enormous implications for the production of biofuel, making plants grow faster and better.

Yalovsky and colleagues said they discovered a protein that controls the way auxin moves throughout a plant. When the protein is genetically engineered into valuable biofuel crops such as corn, sugarcane or experimentals such as switchgrass, the scientists said farmers can expect to get a far larger yield than what they harvest today.

“We’ve found a mechanism that helps the shoot and root talk to each other,” Yalovsky said. “Somehow both parts of the plant need to speak to each other to say ‘Hey down there, I’m up here and there’s lots of sun,’ or ‘I’m down here in the roots and it’s too dry.’ The plant’s shoots need to respond to its environment. We’ve discovered the mechanism that helps auxin do its job.”

The findings were detailed in a recent issue of the journal PLoS Biology.

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