The discovery made by a team led by researchers with the Institute of Crop Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) was published online Friday (Beijing Time) in the academic journal, Science.
The research team examined 118 transcription factors associated with photosynthesis in maize and analyzed the related genes in rice with similar sequences. At last, they identified the key gene, OsDREB1C, that responds to both light and low nitrogen conditions, and thus they found the gene modulates both photosynthesis and nitrogen utilization.
The researchers enhanced the expression of the OsDREB1C gene in two rice varieties through genetic engineering technology. And they conducted field trials at three different sites in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Sanya in northern, eastern, and southern China, representing very different environmental conditions, from 2018 to 2022. The results showed that the yield of the two rice varieties increased by more than 30 percent. Their growth duration was also shortened.
In the experiment on a wheat variety, they found the OsDREB1C gene can increase its yield by more than 17 percent, and shorten its growth duration by three to six days, showing that this gene has the function of increasing yield and shortening the growth period of different crops.