Gene-editing could help turn a wild berry into a farmable crop

It may take a lot of years for making a wild plant easy to farm, but by the use of gene editing you can make that happen for one fruit in a record time. Scientists have used CRISPR and genomics gene editing in order to develop a technique which could cultivate the groundcherry, a wild fruit which is tasty and drought-resistant however difficult to grow in large volumes. After sequencing the genome of groundcherry, the team tweaked CRISPR to work with the plant as well as it pinpointed the genes which led to its less-than-pleasant traits, like its small size and not-so-huge flowering. From there, they just needed to ‘fix’ the fruit with gene edits which promoted the type of qualities they were looking for.

The improvements in the fruit have just started, and the work will still need some conventional plant breeding in order to grow a feasible crop. The researchers have already started to plan more edits, though, like changing the color of fruit and flavor refining.

There are some known ethical concerns as well. Even if some of the governments have little to no regulation for food that is gene-edited, there isn’t exactly an excess information on how nicely CRISPR-based domestication works in actual practice. Any type of launch would likely need extensive testing. And then the matter of cultural acceptance is also to be considered. Will the general public make some noise for groundcherries which do not exist in nature?

Still, there have been some strong incentives to explore domestication for this as well as some other wild plants. Apart from the culinary advantages, it may help in growth of crops in climates that are quite challenging. This could further improve the food supply of the world, not to mention the variety of food options in a few areas.

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