Plants engineered to ‘recycle’ toxins could boost crop yields nearly 50 percent

Screen Shot at AM
Tobacco plants

Can you imagine the entire population of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom and France going hungry?

You don’t need to imagine. That is exactly what happens every day when an estimated 815 million people around the globe go hungry. In the short term, the problem is likely to get worse as the population grows, diets change and urban sprawl forces farmers to produce more food on less land ….

As a biochemist …. I’m working with an international research project exploring how to …. increase the efficiency of photosynthesis – the process plants use to convert energy from the sun into the food we eat. In our most recent publication we’ve shown that it is possible to dramatically boost crop yield, by enabling the plant to get rid of its toxins more quickly.

[Editor’s note: Paul South is a postdoctoral researcher at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.]

We managed to speed up the recycling of these toxins by designing [a strain of tobacco] plants that produce more of a protein, called the H-protein, that is already present in our crop plants and plays a role in photorespiration …. after two years of field trials, [we] demonstrated that increasing H-protein levels leads to larger plants, boosting the crop yield by 27-47 percent.

Read full, original article: Helping plants remove natural toxins could boost crop yields by 47 percent

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