Transforming crop yields through synthetic photorespiration

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Across the world today, one in seven people is malnourished and enduring the outcomes of a situation which is expected to worsen as the global population continues to increase. If we are to maintain our natural biodiversity and habitat we cannot continue to expand arable lands.

Furthermore, not all land is suitable for growing crops. This means that we must find new ways to boost the productivity of food crops within the existing space available and in a wide range of conditions, including the growing impact of climate change.

The EU-funded FUTUREAGRICULTURE project is working on a radically different approach centred around the process of photorespiration. Natural plant photorespiration takes up oxygen in the light, dissipates energy produced by photosynthesis and releases carbon dioxide (CO2) back into the atmosphere. This reduces the effective rate of carbon fixation and thereby lowers agricultural productivity.

By designing and engineering plants that can overcome the deficiencies of natural photorespiration, FUTUREAGRICULTURE aims to boost agricultural yield.

‘One of the main barriers to increasing yield is the low efficiency of carbon fixation – the process through which life energy is converted into biomass or sugars. We decided to focus on this process, noting current inefficiencies and also where intervention might be possible,’ says project coordinator Dr Arren Bar-Even of the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

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Image source: © INSRL, 2017

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