What keeps some plants squatting close to the soil while others – even those closely related – reach high for the skies?
New research addressing the architecture and growth habit of plants has provided an answer to this question and may assist in the development of better performing crops.
The way plants grow must sometimes satisfy contradictory needs. Growing close to the ground, decreases the chances of being grazed, but this presents the need to rise rapidly to allow seeds to disperse. This can be observed in dandelions and in Arabidopsis, a model species commonly used to study plant development.
Agriculture has taken advantage of the diversification of growth habit so that we observe in brassicas for example, a rich and varied assortment of shapes from the compressed rosette growth of cabbages to the tall rangy outlines of crops such as oilseed rape.