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Image credit: Crop Science Society of America
Clover plants typically bear three leaves and four-leaf types are desired. Scientists recently reported a gene that is ascribed to encode for the four-leaf types. The allele for the three-leaf trait masks the expression of the four-leaf trait. Environmental factors also strongly affect the expression of this highly desired trait. Now, genetic markers are available, which make the detection of the gene responsible for this particular trait possible. Researchers reported that they have identified this gene together with the other leaf traits in the white-clover genome.
Other genes identified were those responsible for leaf traits such as the red fleck mark and the red midrib, which is a herringbone pattern that runs along the center of the leaflet and with a strong red color. The determination of these genes also resolved the century-old question if these traits are controlled by one or more separate genes.
It turns out that the white clovers have many genes that affect the color and shape of the leaves. The leaf patterns are strikingly beautiful and can be used as an ornament in flower beds. As such, Wayne Parrott, the senior researcher at the University of Georgia remarks, "This is a great time to be involved in white clover breeding. We now have the tools to make it easier to breed important traits in this species which has historically proven to be a challenging plant to work with. In addition, we can hasten the development of new white clover cultivars bred for a variety of uses by screening new generations of plants for traits of interest before they even reach the field trial stage, significantly reducing the time and resources needed for new releases of white clover."
His research team, together with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, worked using the modern molecular genetics tools and classic breeding strategies in order to understand the leaf trait inheritance in this plant. Through their research, the long mystery of how these leaf traits have been inherited and why white clover has so many rare leaf traits have been given a new light. Researchers continue with their studies with the intent to develop a new cultivar expressing these desirable leaf traits.
Prepared and adapted by Vicki Mozo from a press release from Crop Science Society of America entitled "Scientists Find Four-Leaf Clover Gene" in https://www.crops.org.
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