Scientists have achieved a photosynthesis breakthrough as they have managed to boost the crop’s growth by an estimated 20 percent.
The team of scientists to have studied and tweaked photosynthesis are part of the University of Illinois and were led by Stephen Long.
A professor of plant biology and crop sciences, Long and his team published their study results in the Science journal.
According to their research, a series of adjustments to a number of three proteins can boost up a crops’ growth by 14 up to 20 percent.
As the world population continues to grow and is estimated to reach a 9.7 billion number by 2050, an increase in food sources and production is highly needed.
The research and studies targeting plant photosynthesis are not new as scientists have for a long time been interested in understanding the process.
Photosynthesis is the natural process through which plants gather and convert carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water into their food sources.
According to studies, the vital plant process is quite inefficient as it utilizes and takes advantage of just 1 percent of the available energy.
The current results come after several years of studies in which the researchers gathered and experimented with various laboratory and field tests.
They also generated computational models which have helped them better understand the natural process.
All these studies pointed towards one of the plant’s most important protection mechanisms and the proteins behind it.
Their computational models suggested that boosting up three of the proteins involved in the photosynthesis process might help plants grow faster.
The team chose to experiment and test their theory on tobacco plants as their genetic structure is more easily modifiable.
As the three proteins were used by the plant so as to protect them from too much sun, the team tweaked them so as to have a faster response time.
Plants have a protection system which regulates how much sun is filtered by their leaves and also helps get rid of the excess energy.
This protection system turns off when a plant is shaded, but it is quite a slow shut down as it may take from 10 minutes to even an hour.
As such, professor Long and his team changed the proteins involved in the process and determined their faster adaptation to the light conditions.
With the help of the system, the modified plants could more quickly turn off and also on the respective natural system. A faster switch between the two is believed to help plants gather the most from the sun’s light.
The team grew three tobacco plants using this modified photosynthesis process and gathered the following results. Out of the three, two plants presented a leaf growth increase of 20 percent. The third plant had a smaller increase of just 14 percent.
As this first experiment was a success, Long stated that the method could come to be used in other plants as well.
Seed-oriented plants such as rice and corn should also accommodate to the technique according to the same Long. However, their growth increase might be smaller, of about 10 percent.
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