If a plant is shaded by another, it becomes cut off from essential sunlight it needs to survive. Their sensors can detect depletion of red and blue light (wavelengths absorbed by vegetation) to distinguish between an aggressive nearby plant from a passing cloud.
Scientists have found a way by which plants assess the quality of shade to outgrow menacing neighbours, a finding that could be used to improve the productivity of crops.
The finding could help researchers learn how to modify plant genes to optimise growth to, for example, coerce soy or tomato crops grow more aggressively and give a greater yield even in a crowded, shady field.
The researchers compared the responses of the mutant and normal plants in the varying blue light conditions by monitoring the growth rate of the stems and looking at contacts between cryptochromes, PIFs and chromosomes.
"We found that cryptochromes contact these transcription factors on DNA, activating genes completely different than what other photoreceptors activate," said first author Ullas Pedmale, a Salk research associate.
The study was published in the journal Cell.


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