When we think about plants, we are unlikely to wonder whether they are an early bird or night owl. However, based on research, it seems that plants are just like humans. They also have a body clock and can either be a lark or night owl. It all comes down to their DNA.

Researchers at the John Innes Center and Earlham Institute in Norwich have found that there is a single letter change in the DNA code of plants which allows us to know whether the plant prefers to get up early or stay up late.

With the help of the findings, crop breeders and farmers can select plants that have a body clock that is best suited for the desired location. This would help boost yield and improve the ability to fight climate change.

The circadian clock helps plants and animals know if it is day or night at the molecular level. To beat insomnia, humans try to regular their own circadian clocks. A wide range of processes is regulated in plants, from photosynthesis to regulating flowering time. 

Plants make important choices based on the season, climate, latitude, and geography. Since climate change has become an unfortunate reality, farmers need to grow plants that are more sustainable and more likely to counter the changes in the environment. This has made the discovery of the gene very useful, especially when considering food security. 

The researcher and author of the study, Dr. Hannah Rees of the Earlham Institute was interested in how circadian clocks in plants are affected in a country like Sweden. It is possible to create more climate-resilient crops to boost food security. 

Dr. Hannah Rees said: “A plant’s overall health is heavily influenced by how closely its circadian clock is synchronized to the length of each day and the passing of seasons. An accurate body clock can give it an edge over competitors, predators, and pathogens.

The genes were studied by the team in about 191 varieties to better understand the differences in circadian functioning. The researches of the study looked for any differences in genes of the plants. A single DNA was revealed to play a huge role. It is known as COR28. It is more likely to be found in plants that flower late and last longer.

“We were interested to see how plant circadian clocks would be affected in Sweden; a country that experiences extreme variations in daylight hours and climate. Understanding the genetics behind body clock variation and adaptation could help us breed more climate-resilient crops in other regions,” said Dr. Rees.