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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Crop achilles' heel costs farmers 10 percent of potential yield

Scientists assumed leaves at the top of a plant would be the best at turning higher levels of light into carbohydrates--through the process of photosynthesis -- while the lower shaded leaves would be better at processing the low light levels that penetrate the plant's canopy of leaves. Turns out that in two of our most productive crops, these shaded leaves are less efficient than the top leaves, limiting yield.

Something new under the Arizona sun: a robotic revolution in plant breeding

On a bright, hot day this June in Arizona, a vehicle the size of a Golden Retriever, designed and constructed at the University of Illinois, rolls on miniature tank treads between two rows of young plants. A group of researchers, policy-makers, and farmers have gathered to see the early fruits of an unusual hybridization in modern agriculture: a crop of semi-autonomous robots designed to monitor the growth of sorghum and other crops, born of a cross between plant biology and engineering.

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