And the breakthrough could also allow growth of genetically modified (GM) crops without the risk of contamination from stray pollen, said Dr Robert Sablowski, a researcher at the John Innes Institute near Norwich. Horticultural researchers believe they have identified the main genes involved in flower formation, which can be genetically engineered to produce flower-less plants or pollen-less flowers. One gene, called "leafy", has controls genes involved in stimulating the growth of a flower's internal structures, including its male reproductive organs - the stamens - which produce pollen.
Professor Detlef Weigel, who led the team from the Salk Institute in La Jolla in California, said the discovery will allow horticulturalists to manipulate a plant's flowers with fine precision.
"Knowing all the cues that lend a flower its size and shape should permit the deliberate design of flowers through genetic manipulations," he said.Reuse content