Longer roots

Plant & zo

The science of plants and more

Longer roots

To access deeper located water enables a plant to better withstand drought. Helpful hereby are longer roots that penetrate deeper into the soil. It is one of the traits that breeders select during the development of drought resilient wheat. Although a big stumbling block is that there is relatively little known about which genes are involved. But now A group of researchers from America, Argentine, China, Israel, and Sweden show that the development of long soil penetrating roots depend on the level expression of OPRIII genes.

Wheat lines that were intercrossed with a rye line for a better root system pointed the researchers to the OPRIII genes. These so-called RS lines had a more expanded root system with better access to water. With as result a higher yield for RS lines in the case of drought.

Closer analysis suggested that the most like genes responsible for the drought adapted root system of the RS lines were the OPRIII genes. To make sure this was indeed the case the researchers developed wheat with extra OPRIII and wheat without any OPRIII. When there was an extra amount of OPRIII present, then the researchers noticed, the wheat plants had shorter roots with more side roots. While absence of OPRIII resulted in wheat plants with extra long roots.

Making the amount of OPRIII determinative for how the roots develop. Although it is not completely clear how OPRIII influences root architecture. It gives breeders a handhold for developing drought resilience lines. By keeping an eye on the OPRIII levels.


Gabay, G., Wang, H., Zhang, J. et al. (2023) Dosage differences in 12-OXOPHYTODIENOATE REDUCTASE genes modulate wheat root growth. Nature Communications 14, 539 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-36248-y

Published by Femke de Jong

A plant scientist who wants to let people know more about the wonders of plant science. Follow me at @plantandzo

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