An international research team announced that it has identified the protein dynamics that control plants' response to light and shade. The study, which appeared in the Oct. 7 issue of Nature, promises to lead to the engineering of more productive, disease-resistant crops. Pill-Soon Song, a professor of chemistry at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and an author of the study, explained that the pigment phytochrome reacts with 660-nm red and 730-nm far-red light. The pigment in turn signals nucleoside diphosphate kinase 2, which communicates with the cells to effect the production of embryonic leaves and the greening of a plant. Song said the discovery could lead to plants with an altered shade response. "The possible applications include greener and slower-growing grass, as well as generally healthier plants," he said. If plants could be made to ignore the stressful shade avoidance reflex, they would produce more and larger seeds and be less susceptible to fungi and disease.