How synthetic biology in farming could slow climate change: ‘Supercharged’ photosynthesis, increased CO2 storage and more are in the works

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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Efforts to improve the genetics of food crops are as old as agriculture …. but synthetic biology techniques, including CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene-editing systems, have sped up the process and made new approaches possible. As climate change threatens the world’s food-growing systems, plant scientists, industry, and governments hope to use these powerful methods to make plants hardier and land more productive. Here are some of their targets.

Shrinking stems

Bayer Crop Science is …. developing and field-testing conventionally bred and genetically modified corn varieties that are a meter or more shorter—and much sturdier—than any corn that farmers have previously grown. According to Bob Reiter, head of R&D for Bayer Crop Science, farmers should be able to pack more of the smaller plants into the same area, thereby producing more food on the same land, and prevent stems from breaking in the wind.

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Extending Roots

Several groups are working to boost crop yields by improving and increasing root formation. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are taking the idea one step further by making plants with roots that are not only bigger but also resistant to decomposition, potentially enabling them to store more carbon underground.

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