Gamma Rays Limit Root Growth but Cause Leaf Patterns in Salvia Plants

Greg Howard
25th January, 2024

Gamma Rays Limit Root Growth but Cause Leaf Patterns in Salvia Plants

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Salvia uliginosa is a shrub that is known for its striking blue flowers and its capacity to attract pollinators, making it a popular plant for gardens and landscapes. Despite these attractive features, there isn't much variety available for those looking to purchase this plant. To introduce new traits and increase diversity within the species, plant scientists sometimes turn to a technique called mutation breeding. This process involves exposing plants to radiation to induce mutations, which can result in new, sometimes desirable, characteristics. To investigate how this technique might benefit Salvia uliginosa, researchers from the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia carried out a series of experiments. They began by taking cuttings from the plant—essentially cloning pieces of it to create new plants—and exposed these to different levels of gamma rays, a type of radiation, from a cobalt-60 source. The purpose of this was to find the right dose of radiation that might induce useful changes without harming the plant's overall health and growth. Groups of ten cuttings were subjected to varying doses of radiation ranging from zero (as a control group to compare) to 50 Gray (Gy)—a unit of ionizing radiation dose. Afterward, another experiment focused on treating 25 cuttings with 35 Gy of gamma rays to try and cause beneficial mutations. The results showed that as the level of radiation increased, the quality of the roots, the plant's survival rate, and its height were negatively affected in the first generation after treatment (M1V1). However, cuttings from the second selection group (M1V2) did not show adverse effects on rooting ability, which suggested that some resilience could be built into the plant's response to radiation over time. Among the plants treated with 35 Gy, the scientists discovered one particular mutant with variegated leaves—leaves that have different colors in segments or patterns. This sign of mutation occurred in 4% of the treated cuttings, indicating a low but tangible possibility of inducing new traits in the species. The takeaway from this research is that a balance can be struck using gamma radiation to induce mutations in Salvia uliginosa. By choosing the appropriate dose, which in this case seems to be around 35 Gy, it's possible to create new plant varieties with desired features while keeping the negative side effects of the radiation to a minimum. This expands the potential for introducing new and attractive versions of Salvia uliginosa to the commercial market without significantly hindering the plant's growth or survival.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Co60 gamma irradiation reduces rooting ability in M1V1Salvia uliginosa while inducing leaf variegation.

Published 24th January, 2024

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