Pectin Plays Key Role in Fiber Quality
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
June 3, 1999
Tara Weaver-Missick, (301) 504-1619, email@example.com
Agricultural Research Service scientists have discovered that pectin, a
jelly-like substance, on cotton fiber walls appears to play a key role in
controlling fiber quality. This discovery could lead to new ways to improve
fiber length and strength.
ARS plant physiologists Kevin C. Vaughn and Rickie B. Turley, in Stoneville,
Miss., found that cotton fibers have a layer of pectin around their cells
that is not present in other parts of the plant. The scientists say this
pectin layer appears to allow cotton fibers to elongate. This lengthening
leads to more fiber, the fluffy white part taken directly from the boll.
This discovery was a surprise to Vaughn, who is with ARS' Southern Weed
Science Research Unit, because his work and many other scientists' work has
always focused on how cellulose--the major component of the plant cell
wall--affects fiber quality and length, rather than how pectin has.
The ARS scientists found that mutations or certain herbicide treatments can
alter cotton fiber. In lab studies, when they altered pectin amounts, they
found either cotton fiber did not grow or its physical characteristics were
changed, such as short squatty fibers versus long fibers.
Vaughn and Turley, who is with ARS' Crop Genetics and Production Research
Unit, are trying to identify the enzymes responsible for producing fiber
pectin. Ultimately, identifying those enzymes will help to improve fiber
length and quality.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research
Scientific contact: Kevin C. Vaughn, ARS Southern Weed Science Research
Unit, Stoneville, Miss., (phone) 601-686-5211, (fax), 601-686-5422,
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