Scientists Hacked Photosynthesis To Boost Crop Yields

Posted: Nov 18 2016, 5:52am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Scientists Hacked Photosynthesis to Boost Crop Yields
Tobacco leaves showing transient overexpression of genes involved in nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), a system that protects plants from light damage. Red and yellow regions represent low NPQ activity, while blue and purple areas show high levels induced by exposure to light. Credit: Lauriebeth Leonelli and Matthew Brooks/UC Berkeley
  • Crop Harvest to be Improved upon via Tweaked Photosynthesis
 

The crop harvest is to be improved via a tweaked process of photosynthesis. At least, that is what the scientists have done.

Biologists have created extra yield in bumper crops via increasing the amount of light that plants utilize during the process of photosynthesis. This productivity is as much as 20% higher than the usual yield.

This could help feed more people in the future when the population time bomb explodes. Three genes that play a crucial role in plants were modified by the scientists. 

The plants used these genes to protect themselves from increased light. Via an increase in the expression of these genes, the yield was increased by 14% to 20%. This is indeed quite an improvement on the previous productivity levels.

The findings were published on Thursday, November 17, in the journal Science.

The model crop which was used as a case study was the tobacco plant. However, the scientists are busy working on the same process in other crops such as rice.

These processed which are being studied run the gamut of plant species. Thus other crops will also show increases in their yield thanks to this experiment. 

Photosynthesis is the ordinary method by which plants manufacture their food. They require sunlight and water to do the job. The solar energy mixes with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to accomplish this task.

The result is biomass which is used for food, fuel and fiber. Where the sun’s rays are too strong, there is damage and the process is derailed.

Plants have a nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) system inside their chloroplasts that is meant for this express purpose. NPQ is rather like a safety valve to let loose some steam. The pressure builds up where there is too much sunlight.  

NPQ turns on the brakes and dissipates the extra energy. When the plant is placed in a shade, the process weakens. Yet some degree of leakage remains.

The researchers tested gene expression in tobacco plants in this study. Boosting three genes involved in NPQ helped in this regard. This work to boost crop yields comes at a time when food shortages have started affecting the world economy.

The future is precarious. This is partly due to global warming. So such scientific finetuning methods will come in handy in increasing crop productivity in the times to come.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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