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Researchers Find Gene Controlling Cotton Leaf Shape

Cotton leaves come in different shapes, with the usual leaves on the left, and the 'okra' shape on the right.
(Courtesy Vasu Kuraparthy - North Carolina State)
Cotton leaves come in different shapes, with the usual leaves on the left, and the 'okra' shape on the right.

In central Arizona, the only white you’re likely to see on the ground in winter are the remnants of this year’s cotton harvest.

Now, new research could lead to farmers getting more cotton for less cost.

In a paper published December, North Carolina State University researchers identified the exact gene that gives an upland cotton leaf its basic shape. Cotton leaves come in two shapes, the typical, normal leaf with five wide leaves, and another shape with much skinnier leaves.

Scientists say the skinnier leaves are less susceptible to boll rot, and can mature earlier.

To figure out where that leaf-shape gene was, researchers were able to make the larger leaf plants form normal leaves by ‘silencing’ the suspected gene. They say this is a first step in breeding superior cotton varieties.

Upland Cotton brought in more than $86 million for Arizona farmers in 2015.

EDITORS NOTE: Article updated to reflect which kind of cotton leaf shapes were identified. 

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.