Research finds key advances towards reducing the cost of plant improvement

Crop improvement often involves the transfer of genetic material from one organism to another to produce a valuable trait. Some major examples of crops with these so-called ‘transgenes’ include disease-resistant cotton and beta-carotene-enhanced golden rice. However, when foreign DNA is introduced into a host organism, a natural defensive response in plants is to repress or silence the expression of the unfamiliar genetic material. This ‘silencing,’ a process known to involve DNA methylation, is a multimillion-dollar problem in the global agricultural improvement industry.