The most important thing that a plant does is to flower. Without flowers we would not have fruits, crops and of course seeds to begin the following year. In the past, experiments have proven that plants can adjust the timing of their flowering in response to environmental conditions like, light, temperature & nutrient availability. But not much is known or understood about what causes plants to make flowers instead of leaves, until now.
A research team from the National University of Singapore has discovered how this happens. A protein has been identified that is essential for the flowering process under normal light conditions. (the teams findings are published in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology).
The study took 5 years to complete, during that time more than 3 million samples were studied. This enabled them to identify a molecule that they dubbed FT-INTERACTING PROTEIN 1. They found that plants with non-functional versions of this molecule flowered much later under normal light conditions. When the gene was introduced to these plants their flowering time was restored back to normal. This suggests that the key to flowering is controlled by light and implies that this gene could be used as a marker for classic plant breeding and genetic modification for desirable flowering traits with an aim of increasing crop yields in changing environments.