A team led by Professor Marcelo Menossi at the University of Campinas's
Biology Institute (IB-UNICAMP) in Brazil has found that the key to
overcoming a major constraint on sugarcane yield could lie in a gene called
Sugarcane yields have been static for decades due to the constraints on culm
development. The culm's sugar storage capacity is physically limited,
restricting the volume of sucrose and biomass that can be obtained from the
crop for sugar and ethanol production.
Menossi said that breaking through this developmental threshold by
conventional breeding has been difficult. His team discovered that ScGAI is
an important regulator of culm development, and manipulating its activity
increases culm volume and changes the allocation of carbon to structural and
ScGAI was also found to mediate the regulation of sugarcane developmental
hormones, such as ethylene and gibberellins. Gibberellins are widely used to
improve yields and accelerate sugarcane ripening by triggering the rapid
degradation of DELLA proteins, which are thereby prevented from interacting
with and degrading other proteins that stimulate culm development.