Scientists of the RIPE project study how well their plants modified to bypass photorespiration perform beside unmodified plants in real-world conditions.
Photo: Claire Benjamin/RIPE Project

18.01.2019

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Meeting food demands for the growing global human population requires improving crop productivity, and large gains are possible through enhancing photosynthetic efficiency. US researchers found that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 per cent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.

Plants convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. However, most crops on the planet are plagued by a photosynthetic glitch, and to deal with it, they have evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that drastically suppresses their yield potential. Today, researchers from the University of Illinois/USA and the US Department of Agriculture report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 per cent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.

The study is part of “Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency” (RIPE), an international research project that is engineering crops to photosynthesise more efficiently to sustainably increase world-wide food productivity with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Photosynthesis uses the enzyme Rubisco — the planet’s most abundant protein — and sunlight energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars that fuel plant growth and yield.

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