Lettuce gene that withstands hot weather found

R. Ravikanth Reddy
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Study results appear online in the journal, The Plant Cell , and also on University of California, Davis, website

K. Keshavulu
K. Keshavulu

Lettuce is now increasingly finding its way into Indian kitchens thanks to its medicinal and low calorie value.

A new lettuce gene discovered by a team of researchers, which included a scientist from Hyderabad, may lead to lettuces sprouting even in warm weather conditions.

A team of researchers from the University of California, Davis, US, including Keshavulu Kunusoth of Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), has identified a lettuce gene and a related enzyme that put the brakes on germination during hot weather.

The study results have appeared online in the journal, The Plant Cell , and have also been posted on the University of California, Davis, website.

“The discovery of the gene will enable plant breeders to develop lettuce varieties that can better germinate and grow to maturity under high temperatures,” according to the lead author of the study, Kent Bradford, a professor of plant sciences and Director of the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Centre.

The ideal temperature for lettuce sprouting is 10 to 20 degrees Celcius, and the new gene is likely to be of immense help to Indian farmers to meet the growing demand in the country, said Prof. Keshavulu in a chat with The Hindu . As of now, lettuce is mostly grown in Kashmir, Bangalore and Pune.

The outcome of the research will not be limited to lettuce, and other crops could also be modified to improve their germination, felt Prof. Keshavulu, who was with the research team as a post-doctoral fellow. Moreover, with global temperatures expected to go up, the research carries a lot of importance.

The consumption of lettuce is on an upward spiral in India, though mostly in metros. The urban youth have hooked on it, with fast food outlets like KFC, McDonalds and Subway serving lettuce with burgers.

No dinner today is complete without a serving of lettuce. Moreover, expatriates from Europe and the US and NRIs have made it popular as a salad.

Prof. Keshavulu, who is the head of the Seed Science Department, ANGRAU, attributes the medical values and health building qualities of lettuce as another reason for its increasing consumption. It also helps in revitalising muscular tissues, nerves and brain.

Other members of the team are post-doctoral researcher Heqiang Huo and staff researcher Peetambar Dahal (both from the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences) and Claire McCallum of Arcadia Biosciences.

Funding for the study was provided the US Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

  • Research team from University of California, Davis, includes K. Keshavulu of ANGRAU

  • Result to not be limited to lettuce; other crops could also be modified to improve germination

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