A naturally occurring gene variant from rice grown across a broad geographic region contributes to the size of the rice grains, according to research published online in this week in Nature Genetics. These findings may be directly useful for yield improvement in rice and potentially in other cereal crops that carry similar variation in the corresponding gene.
Increasing crop yield without intensifying input is one of the main goals of plant breeding research. Grain size is an important property of the cereals that we have domesticated and artificially selected.
Qifa Zhang and colleagues report the mapping and isolation of the variable gene called GS5, which regulates grain size and yield in rice. Increased GS5 expression is associated with larger grains, reflected in the traits of grain width, rate of filling and weight.