Agricultural Research Service scientists are making progress in determining the genes that control pit formation in plums-the first step in a project to develop pitless varieties of this fruit. Researchers discovered that a set of genes necessary for production of lignin is rapidly turned on specifically in pit tissue-not the flesh or skin-just before hardening. Then these genes quiet down just as quickly after the stone hardens.
Lignin is a material involved in the formation of pits in stone fruit. Fruit pits consist of the seed and the hard woody material, or stone, surrounding the seed.
The researchers' goal is to establish techniques to stop the genes' activity and prevent hardening of the pit, thus producing a pitless plum that would be more appealing to consumers. Pitless fruit would be a premium product that could provide higher income for growers and could increase consumption of these nutritious foods.
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