Source: VIB news release

Scientists from VIB at Ghent University have succeeded in converting annual plants into perennials. They discovered that the deactivation of two genes in annuals led to the formation of structures that converted the plant into a perennial. This was most likely an important mechanism in plant evolution, initiating the formation of trees.

Annuals and perennials
Annual crops grow, blossom and die within one year. Perennials overwinter and grow again the following year. The life strategy of many annuals consists of rapid growth following germination and rapid transition to flower and seed formation, thus preventing the loss of energy needed to create permanent structures. They germinate quickly after the winter so that they come out before other plants, thus eliminating the need to compete for food and light. The trick is basically to make as many seeds as possible in as short a time as possible.

Perennials have more evolved life strategies for surviving in poor conditions. They compose perennial structures such as overwintering buds, bulbs or tubers. These structures contain groups with cells that are not yet specialised, but which can later be converted when required into new organs such as stalks and leaves.

The flowering of annuals
Annual crops consume all the non-specialised cells in developing their flowers. Thus the appearance of the flower signals means the end of the plant. But fortunately they have left seeds that sense