, , , , , , , , ,

UW-Madison Researchers Study Plant Aging To Improve Yields

New Research Could Delay Aging To Allow More Crop Growth

Colors of fall seen on trees frame a church
Toby Talbot/AP Photo

People enjoy watching leaves change from green to gold every fall. But researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are hoping to discover how plants know to make these seasonal changes.

In a recent study, UW-Madison assistant professor Xuehua Zhong found a protein complex that tells plants to change the way they grow based on the environment.

Zhong said it’s important to know the plant’s natural cycle for leaves to change color and fall.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A lot of people think “the plant aging is just the death of the plant, but it’s not actually, because all those leaves are reused (as) nutrition, utilizing for the next generation in the next year,” Zhong said.

By learning more about this process, Zhong said scientists are one step closer to controlling how a plant ages, a tool that could be useful for farmers.

“We can actually delay the aging,” Zhong said. “And that’s also important because if we delay the aging, it means more yields.”

Scientists could also use this process to make plants less sensitive to the impacts of climate change.

“If we have a system, knowing that this is a sensor for sensing those environmental changes, then we can do something (to make the plant) maybe less sensitive to the environmental change.”

Zhong said she’s working to better identify what seasonal changes, like temperature or sunlight, triggers the protein complex.