Apomixis, the Holy Grail is at hand

For a long time, it was no more than a botanical curiosity, of interest to a few scholars with a passion for taxonomy and evolution. Today, it has become the Holy Grail of agricultural genetics. We are talking about apomixis, i.e. the ability to produce viable seeds that are completely identical to the mother plant, bypassing the need for fertilisation. “Research has been going in waves, now we are on the crest,” says Emidio Albertini, an apomixis expert at the University of Perugia and the organiser of a recent workshop on the subject at the Plant & Animal Genome Conference (San Diego, 13 January 2023).

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CRISPR seeds: the asexual revolution is now

apomictic rice UC Davis

Imtiyaz Khanday (left), Venkatesan Sundaresan (right)  with their apomictic rice  (credit: KARIN HIGGINS/UC DAVIS)

“To make a seed it takes a fruit,” pupils use to sing in Italy. Then students learn that there is an embryo inside seeds and it takes a pollen fertilized egg to make it. The dream of plant scientists, however, has always been to be able to produce seeds using only the cell egg. This dream has finally come true: a group led by Venkatesan Sundaresan, at UC Davis, has developed a rice variety capable of cloning its seed. Continue reading