Researchers have shown for the first time that a gene known as Spatula limits the growth of plants in cool temperatures, possibly helping them adjust to cool conditions.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who took part in the study, believe that by manipulating the gene they could produce the opposite effect, enabling the development of crops that grow well in cold climates.

Scientists studied the Spatula gene in a weed known as thale cress and found that when levels of the gene were low, the plant leaves grew almost twice as much at lower temperatures as they would normally. The results were published in the journalCurrent Biology.

The ability to improve crop growth under cool conditions could help ensure the availability of food supplies for future populations and may potentially change the crops or varieties that you grow.