WP 2: Control of flowering time in perennials
Flowering time in perennials has not gained much attraction in the past. The evolution of biennial and perennial flowering and the genes involved will be studied in models like but also in crop plant families with a large variation in life span, which ranges from annual to perennial. The perennial species will be further analyzed to show how key genes are differentially regulated compared to annual Arabidopsis to confer characteristic patterns of perennial development (goal No. 3). These studies will be in close collaboration with the perennial crops research projects.
Three perennial genomes have already been sequenced, populus, apple and grapevine. This offers an opportunity for in depth analysis of FTi in these species. Fruit yield depends strongly on flower development, pollination and fertilization. Genes shall be investigated which are involved in seasonal flower induction and initiation in fruit trees, grapevine and and others in the transition from the juvenile to the adult phase (goal No. 5). These genes shall be characterized and molecular markers shall be developed allowing early selection of favorable genotypes.
The controlled inhibition or delay of flowering would result in a significant increase of feed quality of forage grasses. Candidate genes involved in vernalization response shall be identified and cloned to use them as molecular markers to combine favorable alleles, thus resulting in perennial ryegrass varieties with a prolonged period of vegetative growth and therefore a higher fodder quality (goal No. 5).
In this context senescence in relation to FTi shall be studied. Perennials do not senescent after flowering but return to the reproductive phase after further exposure to cold temperatures. Researchers are encouraged to follow a visionary idea of adjusting senescence and FTi to turn annual or biennial crops into perennials (goal No. 6).