“This 160-step biochemical process is very well studied, and surprisingly inefficient.”

Improving photosynthesis by genetically engineering plants' metabolism


Tue, Aug 15th, 2017 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

With global warming and a growing global population, food production must increase by 50% by 2050. According to MIT's Technology Review, one way of doing this is to genetically modify the efficiency of photosynthesis in a plant. Reportedly a plant only converts 5% of the light it collects into biomass, and even less than that for the production of the edible parts. Just by changing three genes in tobacco, there was a 20% increase in yield. Other plants are now being tested.

[...] Plants thrive on carbon dioxide, but very hot days suppress crop yields. In many parts of the world, the rising temperatures and increased droughts caused by climate change will be devastating. And those negative effects “will have the biggest impact on the poor,” says Steve Long, director of the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project, an international consortium based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-­Champaign.

The RIPE project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is starting with tobacco because it’s relatively easy to genetically engineer. But RIPE’s real aim is to improve the yields of food crops such as cassava and cowpeas, which are important sources of calories and protein in many poor countries. And it is working on much more ambitious changes to plant metabolism than have been made before.



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