Grass crops can incorporate DNA from other species to accelerate evolution, says new study

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Bending the rules of evolution, grass crops can borrow genes from their neighbors, giving them a leverage, according to a new study led by the UK-based University of Sheffield.

The research is the first to reveal that grasses can incorporate DNA from other species, through a process called ‘lateral gene transfer’, into their genomes

”The stolen genetic secrets give them an evolutionary advantage by allowing them to grow faster, bigger or stronger and adapt to new environments quicker. These findings could inform future work to create crops that are more resistant to the effects of climate change and help to tackle food security problems,” the university said.

Notably, the research team examined grasses, including ecologically important plants like wheat, maize, rice, and barley.