FLOWERS AND FOOD
Everyone has seen, touched, smelled flowers, but do you know how important flowers are for your own life?
Flowering is more than “just making a flower”. Flowering is in fact an important life-stage transition for plants, where they switch from growing to reproduction. In order for the plant to achieve reproductive success, flowering needs to take place at the right time. For the plant, “the right time” is determined by a delicate balance between the correct environmental conditions (e.g. the right season, absence of prolonged unfavorable conditions) and the right developmental moment of the plant (e.g. not too young, not too old, not sick or under attack).
For humans, timely flowering and the control of this process is of course important for growers, sellers and consumers of ornamentals (e.g. tulip, chrysanthemum). But it is also crucial for all food crops which depend on the formation of a fruit (e.g. tomatoes, beans, coffee, apples, oranges), the formation of an inflorescence (e.g. broccoli & cauliflower), or which should preferably not flower in commercial production (e.g. lettuce & spinach). So, the entire food chain relies on the timely flowering of crops!
THE RIGHT TIME TO FLOWER
Flowering is under the control of several molecular pathways such as ambient-temperature (detection of temperature in a physiological range), photoperiod (detection of day length/light quality) or hormonal-status (detection of plant hormone levels in the plant). These pathways detect signals both from the environment and the internal status of the plant and integrate these inputs to make a decision of when to flower. Many input signals mean many molecular interconnections to provide the right output (flowering). In this respect, conflicting signals, such as those created by global warming, are a threat to food security.
GENES TALKING TO EACH OTHER
I am working in the frame of a VICI grant awarded to Prof. Richard Immink, with the overall aim to produce climate-proof crops
by leveraging our knowledge of plant reproduction. In my project we focus on two major topics:
- The cross-talk between flowering pathways: To unravel the roles key regulatory genes (such as FLM)play in the cross-talk between ambient-temperature and other flowering pathways such a photoperiod and the circadian clock.
- The conservation of flowering genes and their activities in crops: A lot of knowledge is available about the molecular pathways which regulate flowering in Arabidopsis, but less is known about these regulatory networks in crops.
INTERESTED TO KNOW MORE?
More information on the VICI project: https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Richard-prof.dr.ir.-GH-Richard-Immink.htm
More information Plant Developmental Systems group: https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Gerco-prof.dr.ir.-GC-Gerco-Angenent.htm