Sat, Dec 3, 2016 | updated 09:04 PM IST

Plant can produce seedless fruits sans pollination: Study

Updated: Nov 11, 2016 11:47 IST

Washington D.C. (USA), Nov. 11 (ANI): A recent research has found that production of seedless fruits is an under-estimated tool for improving food security.

The study has suggested that by reducing a crop's demand for pollinators, bountiful levels of vital food crops such as apples, tomatoes and watermelons could be boosted.

A team of researchers from the University of Exeter have conducted new research into how plant breeders are striving to improve fruit yields from crops, across the globe, by bi-passing the plants' need for insect pollination to reproduce.

This is done by inducing parthenocarpy - artificially or via genetic modification - which makes a plant produce seedless fruits without the need for pollination. The study shows that parthenocarpy increases fruit quality and quantity amongst crops that would otherwise require pollination.

However, the team insist parthenocarpy should not be used as a "panacea for agricultural success" - but should sit alongside environmentally sound practices to boost pollinator populations.

"It is of course vital that we still encourage and increase our native pollinator populations to ensure crops and wild plants can thrive as much as possible," said Jessica Knapp .

"However, parthenocarpy can increase the quality and quantity of vital crops, such as apples and tomatoes , which may struggle to be pollinated naturally".

Professor Juliet Osborne added: "Food security is a pressing global challenge and environmental and technological solutions should be used in tandem to ensure the best possible crop yields where they are needed most."

The study showed that all the techniques increased fruit quantity and quality in 18 crops that traditionally depend on pollinators. Consequently, parthenocarpy could improve fruit quality and quantity in conditions usually adverse for pollination, such as during periods of poor light or cooler temperatures.

The researchers believe the study shows that parthenocarpic crop plants could allow producers to extend growing seasons, increase the resilience of crops to adverse conditions, and ultimately improve food security.

However, the research team also insist that the development of these seedless fruits should not reduce efforts to encourage insect pollinators to thrive, with fears over the health of bumblebee and honeybee colonies potentially having a serious impact for agro-ecosystems.

The research is published in Journal of Applied Ecology.(ANI)