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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.

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