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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Breakthrough to measure plant improvements helps boost production

An international team is using advanced tools to develop crops that give farmers more options for sustainably producing more food on less land. To do this, thousands of plant prototypes must be carefully analyzed to figure out which genetic tweaks work best. In a special issue of the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, scientists have shown a new technology can more quickly scan an entire field of plants to capture improvements in their natural capacity to harvest energy from the sun.

Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth 40%

Plants convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis; however, most crops on the planet are plagued by a photosynthetic glitch, and to deal with it, evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that drastically suppresses their yield potential. Today, researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.

Cassava breeding hasn’t improved photosynthesis or yield potential

Cassava is a staple in the diet of more than one billion people across 105 countries, yet this “orphaned crop” has received little attention compared to popular crops like corn and soybeans. While advances in breeding have helped cassava withstand pests and diseases, cassava yields no more today than it did in 1963. Corn yields, by comparison, have more than doubled.

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