The top leaves of crops absorb far more light than they can use, starving lower leaves of light. Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant might be able to reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.
This week, families across the U.S. will gather around Thanksgiving tables in a traditional celebration of the season’s bounty. By improving how key crops transform sunlight into yield, Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) will one day help farmers put food on more tables worldwide, especially where it is needed most.