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January 14, 2010

New cherry blossom tree blooms in all four seasons

A new breed of cherry blossom tree that blooms in all four seasons has been created for the first time by RIKEN scientists using heavy ion beams. 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.

Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the spring

To create the new breed, researchers at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerated-Based Science used beams of carbon ions from the RIKEN Ring Cyclotron at the RI Beam Factory (RIBF) to induce mutations in branches from Keiou-Zakura No. 13, a type of cherry blossom tree. The branches were grafted and cultivated to create a new breed called the 'Nishina Otome'.

Unlike normal cherry blossom trees, the Nishina Otome does not require a period of cold winter weather to trigger growth in the spring. As a result, the new tree is able to bloom in all four seasons under indoor conditions, and in both the fall and the spring when grown outdoors. Given sufficient exposure to low temperatures over the winter, it produces three times more flowers than normal trees, and stays in bloom for twice as long, when it blooms in April.

The use of heavy ion beams to generate new breeds of plants, an approach to horticulture unique to Japan, is drawing attention worldwide as a powerful non-GM breeding technique 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.

Contact

Tomoko Abe
Radiation Biology Team
RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science
Tel: +81-(0)48-467-9527 / Fax: +81-(0)48-467-4674

Jens Wilkinson
RIKEN Global Relations and Research Coordination Office
Tel: +81-(0)48-462-1225 / Fax: +81-(0)48-463-3687
Email: pr@riken.jp

Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the fall

Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the fall

Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the spring

Flowers of the Nishina Otome in the spring

Comparison of the mutant Nishina Otome (left) and the original breed (right)

Comparison of the mutant Nishina Otome (left) and the original breed (right)