Plants are factories for the production of useful components from light and carbon dioxide. A part of that process is photosynthesis. The scientists at the University of Essex found a way to remove two major barriers to photosynthesis and thereby increase plant productivity by 27% in the field. The scientists called the method revolutionary, allowing for increased photosynthetic efficiency.
Another advantage of the new method is that it saves water. Patricia Lopez-Calcagno leads the research work for the RIPE project. With colleagues, she was able to identify the stages that are performed more slowly, allowing them to speed up in photosynthesis.
The project is international, it was initiated by the University of Illinois and aims to create more productive crops by improving photosynthesis. It is a natural process based on the solar energy that is used by plants to convert carbon dioxide into beneficial components for increased yields.
To find out what exactly limits photosynthesis, models of all stages of the process were created, and there are only 170 of them. It helped to understand at which stage the plants produce sugar more efficiently. In the end, the researchers were able to increase crop yields by 27% by addressing two limitations in photosynthesis.
The first is the process by that the plant converts light energy into chemical energy. The second is when carbon dioxide is fixed in sugar. The scientists took particular note of the last point and borrowed additional cellular machinery from other plant and cyanobacterial species.
And that addition significantly improved the crop's water use efficiency, or the ratio of the biomass produced to water lost by the plant. During field experiments, the scientists found that these plants use less water to produce more biomass.