Researchers hope the discovery could help them generate crops with higher yields, allowing farmers to get better value for money.
The study is focused on the Agamous gene, which controls the formation of reproductive organs in flowers.
Double flowers can appear when mutations in this gene lead to a loss of reproductive organs. This phenomenon can be found in plant cultivars such as roses and camellias.
Writing in the journal Plant Cell, scientists at Trinity College Dublin say replicating the process could also be used to boost crop production or create plants with improved traits.
Frank Wellmer, from the university’s Smurfit Institute of Genetics, said the Agamous gene had proved something of a mystery to scientists since it was first identified more than 20 years ago. He said:
“Through our work, this knowledge gap is beginning to close and we have now a much better view of the processes underlying flower development and reproduction.
“I believe our study is a good example of what basic research can deliver and why such research should be supported even without an immediate economic impact.”
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