Thanks to an improved understanding of how plant growth and development are regulated at the molecular level, it is now known to a large extent which DNA sequences are responsible for which traits. By identifying the presence of such DNA sequences (also known as genetic markers) in seedlings, it is possible to predict at a very early stage whether the fully grown plants will be disease-resistant, even without having to infect the plants. This type of breeding is called marker-assisted breeding. A team of scientists from VIB and UGent, led by Prof. Dirk Inzé, developed a new method designed to predict the size of the leaves of a fully grown corn plant while the plant itself is still a seedling. This method is RNA-based rather than DNA-based.
The scientists' results were published in two scientific papers in the journalGenome Biology.