The MIT Technology Review put out its best ‘Best In Tech 2016’ special digital edition last week (available for free here if you give them your email address). On page 39 is a short article called ‘Supercharged Photosynthesis’ that is well worth a read for anyone interested in the sustainable agriculture and biotechnology.
Supercharged photosynthesis occurs naturally in corn and fast growing weeds and results in the more efficient conversion of carbon dioxide into metabolic products. Named C4 photosynthesis, the efficiency increase results from the concentration of carbon dioxide into specialised cells present in the plant’s leaves. These cells surround the carbon dioxide catching cells in a particular “wreath” formation.
In a study from 2014, researchers transplanted five C4 photosynthesis genes into a rice plant and were able to demonstrate that the transgenic rice plant captured carbon dioxide using the same, more efficient, mechanism.
It is estimated that C4 photosynthesis could increase rice and wheat yields by about 50% per hectare or, alternatively, could match current yields using less water and fertiliser.
All the genes that make up the specialised cells and dictate their arrangement and functioning are as yet unknown, but a breakthrough in this knowledge could lead to a significant leap in sustainable increased in produce from a variety of crops.
Really exciting and sure to be an area the Legume Laboratory seeks out more papers on to report here.
Feature Image – by Hajninjah at Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/en/photosynthesis-green-color-holidays-391447/