Skip to main content

Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

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.

Scientists debunk potential link to crop cold tolerance

When temperatures drop, the enzyme Rubisco that fuels plant growth and yield gets sluggish. Many crops compensate by producing more Rubisco; however, scientists speculated that some crops may lack space in their leaves to boost the production of this enzyme, making them more susceptible to cold. A new study from the University of Illinois and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology refutes this theory but found these crops are far from reaching their photosynthetic potential.

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.

Subscribe to Rubisco