UK scientists have created a synthetic molecule which has been shown to increase the size and starch content of wheat grains in the laboratory by up to 20 per cent.
The method uses synthetic precursors of the sugar trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P); a first-of-its-kind strategy which used chemistry to modify how sugars are used by plants.
Rothamsted Research identified this naturally-occurring sugar as crucial in controlling how wheat uses sucrose, the main fuel generated by photosynthesis. Sucrose is key to the development of wheat grains. Researchers identified the more T6P available to wheat grains as they grow, the greater the yield.
A modified version of T6P which could be taken up by the plant and released in it was developed alongside Oxford University researchers. This was added to a solution and sprayed onto wheat plants leading to an increase in grain size and yield of up to 20 per cent under laboratory conditions, said Rothamsted Research.
The method could increase yields across a wide number of crops, as T6P is present and performs the same function in all plants, according to the organisation.