Controlling seed coat plasticity for seed quality in industry

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


Seed quality summarises the desirable characteristics of seeds sold on the market: they should germinate swiftly and evenly across a broad range of germination conditions, leading to a homogeneous stand of robust seedlings in the minimum length of time. Seed companies produce hybrid seeds in multiple sites globally, each subject to environmental variation between and within sites that can negatively impact seed quality. Across all species temperature variation during seed production is a major driver of variable seed quality, and breeding new varieties with robust seed quality in a range of production environments in now a key strategic goal of seed companies. Based on our recently published research and preliminary data we show that temperature during seed production has a major effect on seed behaviour through a signalling pathway that operates in the mother plant. The first part of the proposal aims to understand how temperature sensing leads to the plastic development, biochemistry and permeability of the seed coat, and how seed coat properties control seed behaviour. The second key section is to transfer this new knowledge from model to crop species, and for this we have developed a collaboration with Syngenta to assess and improve Brassica seed quality, a species where germination and establishment of seedlings varies according to seed production sites and seasons. We will examine control of seed quality in a panel of Brassica varieties with varying seed quality responses to maturation environmental conditions, and relate these to gene expression and the developmental, physical and biochemical properties of the seed coat. Finally we will delete genes in Brassica that we have shown control the transduction of temperature signals affecting seed quality in Arabidopsis.


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