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Incredible bacterium can transfer its genes into plants and give them superpowers

Henrik Lütken and his research team have given plants new genes and benefits with the help of a bacterium. Photo: University of Copenhagen.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen are using a bacterium called Rhizobium rhizogenes to transfer genes into plants, mimicking a natural process that has occurred over millions of years. The bacterium has the ability to insert its genes into host plants, leading to the transformation of their traits. By harnessing this process, researchers can accelerate the development of improved flowering plants and crops in a more natural way. For example, they have successfully bred potted kalanchoe plants with desired traits, such as compactness. The bacterium's genes may also help make plants more drought-resistant, which is crucial in the face of climate change. These transformations fall between traditional breeding and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as they speed up natural processes without altering the bacterium's own genetics. This approach could offer a way to develop drought-resistant crops while adhering to European anti-GMO policies.

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