A Blueberry-derived FT-like (FLOWERING LOCUS T) Gene
The United States is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, a crop valued at $863.9 million in 2011. Demand for blueberries has continued to grow as a result of their well-marketed health benefits. Two principle types of the crop are grown for human consumption: lowbush and highbush. Highbush blueberries, able to grow and flower in more temperate climates, are the more frequently cultivated of the two. Both varieties require sustained exposure to cold in order to develop the ability to flower, a span of time known as the vernalization period. An extended harvest season can be created by removing this vernalization requirement. This is especially important as winters grow milder as a result of global warming or in greenhouse production.
Description of Technology
This invention is a gene that acts on the development of a plant’s ability to flower. With the potential to reduce and possibly eliminate the vernalization requirement of blueberry plants, expression of this gene significantly reduces the otherwise lengthy juvenility phase, hastening flowering and harvest. Additionally, because the plants are able to reach maturity much more rapidly, generation cycles are reduced, increasing the efficiency of the breeding process.
- Shortened time-to-harvest: plants begin producing fruit at a younger age.
- Higher yield and increased flowering duration: the plants of this invention flower and bear fruit all year, increasing yield.
- Hardier: FT results in a plant that is resistant to warm temperatures, limiting weather-related losses
- Broader adaptability: reducing vernalization duration requirements allows the highbush strain to be grown in warmer climates
- Greenhouse and tunnel suitable: continuous flowering means that crops grown in greenhouses may have higher annual yield
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Guo-Qing Song, Aaron Walworth
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Michigan State University