PerspectivePlant Biology

Chimeric plants—the best of both worlds

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Science  07 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6504, pp. 618-619
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1641

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  • Grafting has enormous ex-situ conservation potential
    • Charles Harvey Cannon, Director, Center for Tree Science, The Morton Arboretum
    • Other Contributors:
      • Chai-Shian Kua, Urban Tree Science Leader, The Morton Arboretum

    In her Perspectives piece entitled “Chimeric plants - the best of both worlds” (1), Maureen McCann emphasizes that grafting has great agricultural potential to improve yields and develop stress-tolerant varieties more quickly than genomic breeding programs. As demonstrated in the research article by Notaguchi et al (2), a plant grafting superhero can act as an intermediary between two incompatible and distantly related species, creating novel and beneficial chimeric plants that instantly combine multi-genic and complex advantageous traits. Further molecular and physiological understanding of the superhero’s universality could lead to horticultural techniques that directly fuse productive aboveground plant tissue with a locally hardy and robust rootstock.

    We would suggest that grafting of endangered woody plant species may be among the best options for long-term germplasm preservation and rapid propagation and establishment. And yet, the considerable potential of grafting for conservation purposes has been little explored (3). Many traditional germplasm conservation techniques are not appropriate for tree species. Most produce “unorthodox” seeds that cannot be dried and stored in traditional seed-banking programs, thus requiring the management of living tissues. Meanwhile, local soil and belowground environmental conditions can prevent easy establishment and reliable reproduction. Additionally, trees are large and take up a lot of space, requiring substantial...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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