Scientists from the University of Cambridge have recently found a novel way to combine two species of grass-like plant, such as rice, wheat and bananas, that could help to combat current diseases that threaten the survival of the Cavendish banana.
“We’ve achieved something that everyone said was impossible. Grafting embryonic tissue holds real potential across a range of grass-like species. We found that even distantly related species, separated by deep evolutionary time, are graft compatible,” said Professor Julian Hibberd in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, senior author of the report.
The new technique, known as ‘grafting’, consists of joining the shoot of one plant with the root of another during the early embryonic stage. Doing this enables them to grow together as one plant.
- Grafting genetically different root and shoot tissues can result in a plant with new traits such as pest and disease resistance, which will help the survival of bananas.
- It will allow the disease to be more controlled.
- The technique was found to be effective in a range of other monocotyledonous crop plants such as onions, date palms, tequila agaves and pineapples.
- It will be more time efficient than other traditional methods used, like lengthy breeding programmes.
“Our technique allows us to add disease resistance, or other beneficial properties like salt-tolerance, to grass-like plants without resorting to genetic modification or lengthy breeding programmes.” - said Dr Greg Reeves, a Gates Cambridge Scholar in the University of Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences