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Article Released Fri-12th-February-2010 09:05 GMT
Contact: Saeko Okada Institution: RIKEN
 New cherry blossom tree blooms all seasons

A new breed of cherry blossom tree that blooms all year round has been created by RIKEN scientists using heavy ion beams at RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerated-Based Science.

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Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the fall (left) and in the spring (right).
Copyright : RIKEN 2010
The new breed blooms longer, produces more flowers and grows under a wider range of temperatures than existing cherry blossom trees, demonstrating the power of accelerator technology in horticulture.

To create the new breed, researchers used beams of carbon ions from the RIKEN Ring Cyclotron at the RI Beam Factory to induce mutations in branches from the cherry blossom tree known as Keiou-Zakura No. 13. The branches were grafted and cultivated to create the new breed, which has been aptly named ‘Nishina Otome’.

Unlike regular cherry blossom trees, Nishina Otome does not require a period of cold weather to trigger growth. As a result, the new tree is able to bloom all year round when cultivated indoors, and during autumn and spring when grown outdoors. Given sufficient exposure to low temperatures, it produces three times more flowers than the regular varieties, and its spring bloom lasts for twice as long.

The use of heavy ion beams to generate new breeds of plants by mutagenisis, an approach to horticulture unique to Japan, is drawing attention worldwide as a powerful alternative to conventional genetic engineering that is capable of shrinking breeding times to only a few years. The second breed of cherry blossom tree to be registered by RIKEN, the Nishina Otome hints at an exciting future for accelerator-based mutation breeding, one which opens the door to the design of plant varieties better able to cope with a changing environment.
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Comparison of the mutant Nishina Otome (left) and the original breed (right).
Copyright : RIKEN 2010

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