New way to help cope with scorching sunlight could lead to more bountiful crops
Lauriebeth Leonelli, Matthew Brooks/UC Berkeley
Enhancing just three genes helps plants harvest more light, raising new hopes for developing crops that can keep up with food demands from a crowded planet.
Genetically engineered tobacco plants, chosen to test the concept, managed the unusual feat of growing 14 to 20 percent more mass — meaning more crop yield — than untweaked plants, says Krishna Niyogi of the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The gains came from inserting different versions of three genes that control how quickly plants ramp back up to full energy-harvesting capacity after going into a protective mode to protect themselves from too-bright sunlight, researchers report in the Nov. 18 Science.
Among results published so far, “to my knowledge, this is the first example where crop growth has been enhanced by improving photosynthesis,” says plant