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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Hacking evolution, screening technique may improve most widespread enzyme

Plants evolved over millions of years into an environment that has dramatically changed in the last 150 years since the Industrial Revolution began: carbon dioxide levels have increased 50 percent, and the average global temperature has increased by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit. While natural adaptation has been unable to keep up, scientists have developed tools to simulate millions of years of evolution in days to help plants adapt.

Newly characterized protein has potential to save US farmers millions annually

Instead of turning carbon into food, many plants accidentally make a plant-toxic compound during photosynthesis that is recycled through a process called photorespiration. University of Illinois and USDA/ARS researchers report in Plant Cell the discovery of a key protein in this process, which they hope to manipulate to increase plant productivity.

Scientists tweak photosynthesis to boost crop yield

Researchers report in the journal Science that they can increase plant productivity by boosting levels of three proteins involved in photosynthesis. In field trials, the scientists saw increases of 14 percent to 20 percent in the growth of their modified tobacco plants. The work confirms that photosynthesis can be made more efficient to increase plant yield, a hypothesis some in the scientific community once doubted was possible.

The proof of the plant breeding is in the (digital droplet) PCR

The first human farmers needed hundreds of years and a lot of good luck to shape the first domesticated crops. Modern plant breeders wait weeks or months, not centuries, to discover what the literal fruits of their labors might be; now, a study led at Illinois and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has explored the strengths of a molecular method that reduces this wait time to a few days.

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Illinois and Syngenta Sign Agreement for Access to RIPE IP

The University of Illinois (Illinois) and Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, have signed an agreement to implement a commercialization strategy for intellectual property developed under the "RIPE: Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency for Sustainable Increases in Crop Yield" project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the context of this project, Illinois is collaborating with seven other institutions to improve photosynthetic efficiency in food crops in an effort to help resource-poor farmers increase their sustainable yields.

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Increasing Crop Productivity Through More Efficient, Better Neighbor Plants

How can we meet the accelerating food needs of the world’s population, without increasing the amount of land used for farming? By making plants better neighbors, and borrowing molecular tricks from other species to make their use of light and carbon more efficient, researchers hope to improve the photosynthetic efficiency of crops and give a much-needed boost to food production.

Food and Fuel From Oilcane: A Minute With Agricultural Expert Stephen Long

Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long and his collaborators have engineered sugarcane so that it accumulates oil in its stems that can be made into biodiesel. They now have an “oilcane” that accumulates 2 percent oil by weight, and their research suggests they can eventually raise this to 20 percent. Their work will be exhibited at the 2015 Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. Long spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the implications for food and biofuels.

Illinois Study May Improve Rice Productivity

Illinois study may improve rice productivity

Transnational rice study on photosynthesis could improve international food security 

University of Illinois researchers established the university's first rice paddy to test rice performance in Illinois and at Kyoto University in Japan. The two plots, which were planted on the same date, should reveal clues about what factors help the plants more efficiently convert the sun’s energy into food, known as photosynthetic performance.

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