Humans have been manipulating plant form by selection and breeding for over 12,000 years, to generate crop varieties with stable, engineered new morphologies. These domesticated plants form the bedrock of modern agriculture.
Many of the genetic changes associated with crop domestication have been mapped precisely. The domestication of crop plants like corn or tomato is associated with genetic changes of limited number and type - and are generally changes that trigger reconfiguration of regulatory networks.
New gene editing techniques have allowed scientists to recapitulate these traits in wild plants. This introduces the prospect of being able to systematically reprogram the growth and final form of any plant, and being able to harness the functional diversity of the ~400,000 plant species that have not been domesticated. For this, we need to understand the relationships between DNA code, cellular code and plant form.