Crop plants will be improved through changing expression or activity levels of two highly conserved genes (eIF-5A or DHS) whose ratio of protein products determines whether the cell will either continue to grow and divide or alternatively enter senescence/apoptosis and die. A non-transgenic approach uses genome editing to alter activity of these gene products by making small targeted mutations. These stable genetic changes significantly enhance crop traits, including:
delayed senescence/fruit ripening/spoilage leading to extended shelf life of perishable produce and floriculture;
enhanced tolerance to diseases and stress (drought, heat, cold, salt, low nutrients, crowding); and most importantly
significantly increased biomass and seed yields, especially under stressed conditions.