Biotech could increase crop yields by improving photosynthesis

Two down, one to go. Researchers have completed the second of three major steps needed to turbocharge photosynthesis in crops such as wheat and rice, something that could boost yields by around 36 to 60 percent for many plants. Because it’s more efficient, the new photosynthesis method could also cut the amount of fertilizer and water needed to grow food.

Researchers at Cornell University and Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom successfully transplanted genes from a type of bacteria—called cyanobacteria—into tobacco plants, which are often used in research. The genes allow the plant to produce a more efficient enzyme for converting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars and other carbohydrates. The results are published today in the journal Nature.

Maureen Hansen, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Cornell, says the advances won’t be seen in commercially grown food crops for at least five or 10 years.

The approach will likely be limited at first to a few plants that researchers are particularly good at genetically modifying, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. However, Price says, there are genetic workarounds that could quickly make it possible in a wider range of crops.

Read the full, original article: Turbocharging photosynthesis to feed the world

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