Would you like to eat broccoli year round and also increase harvests to twice a season?
Well, that’s what researchers at the John Innes Centre in the UK are attempting to accomplish. This accomplishment builds on prior research on the inner workings of vernalisation, which is the process that induces crops to flower after experiencing a cold snap of temperature.
When To Flower
This system exists so the plants ensure that their flowering and spreading of their seeds occurs during the spring and summer, the optimal time period to have successful germination and pollination. The earlier research involved understanding how this switch in the plants occur when exposed to cold temperatures and how it can be mechanically invoked, so that flowering happens sooner than it would normally in a growing period. For the UK especially, this research is of high importance, as long cold weather often contributes to low fruit and vegetable harvests, with only 23% of the annual consumption of them being grown in the UK, rather than being imported.
A Continuous Harvest
While the specific genetic details on how they accomplished this has yet to be revealed, it is suggested that the lines they were growing keyed into the gene that didn’t require this vernalisation for Brassica cultivars like broccoli. They have since identified the specific genes responsible that allow for such rapid growth. And though these results can allow for two harvests in a season, it still wouldn’t allow for the crops to be grown outdoors in the winter. To get the most out of this non-seasonality trait, the scientists suggest that the crops are grown in an in-door greenhouse esque enclosure to get the most out of them, as this would enable year-round growing seasons. One of the main purposes of this sort of research, in addition to increasing food harvests, is to “climate-proof” our crops and shield them from the effects of changing temperature zones due to climate change. With these new traits, Brassica vegetables can be freely grown in the UK without concern for outside conditions.
Meeting The Challenge
Further testing is still required to ensure year-round in-door growth is feasible for the crops and also to make sure no nutrition is lost from the rapid growing speed, but indications thus far are positive.
Every research organization is, in their own way, contributing to the protection of the human race from even the negative effects we are causing on the planet.