The groundcherry has been used by scientists as an experiment to illustrate how fast the CRISPR genome editing can speed up the domestication of wild plants
The name of this unusual fruit is not as appetizing (groundcherry) but with some help from scientists it could become a supermarket staple very soon.
Scientists have used this fruit as an experiment to prove just how fast CRISPR genome editing can speed up the domestication of wild plants.
Goundcherry, aslo known as husk cherries is native to Central and South America, which is why it would have taken a long time for it to be accepted within mainstream agriculture without the help of the scientists. This is mostly because it is difficult to grow and the fruit sporadically drops to the ground from the vine, often right before it’s ripe, making it hard to farm on a larger scale.
To adjust these shortcomings through traditional plant domestication would take decades, if not even centuries or more, which is why it has been decided to speed up the process through CRISPR.
“I firmly believe that with the right approach, the groundcherry could become a major berry crop,” says lead researcher and plant scientist Zachary Lippman from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
“I think we’re now at a place where the technology allows us to reach.”
With the researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Boyce Thompson Institute tagging along, Lippman sequenced some of the fruit’s genome and used CRISPR to manipulate its genes – sounds pretty science fiction, doesn’t it?
By doing so, they managed to influence a hormone that regulates flowering, encouraging the plant to become more compact and produce fruits in clusters rather than individually.
“This is pretty good proof that with gene editing you can think about bringing other wild plants or orphan crops into agricultural production,” Lippman says.
“The more arrows we have in our quiver to address agricultural needs in the future, the better off we’re going to be.”