Enzyme research shows promise for crop yield increase

Plant photosynthesis can be "turbocharged", giving the prospect of greatly increased yields of food crops, according to UK-funded research presented in the USA last week.

Natural turbochargers which optimise photosynthesis by using an enzyme to concentrate carbon dioxide, are already found in some plants. Professor Howard Griffiths of the University of Cambridge said he hoped that by gaining a better understanding of such enzymes, these may one day be incorporated into crops to increase yields.

"We want to improve the operating efficiency of the enzyme RuBisCO in crops and we believe algae may one day provide the answer," he said.

"By combining algal and plant photosynthesis to improve photosynthetic efficiency, we would see an increase in agricultural productivity for the production of food and renewable energy."

The Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded research is also looking at ways in which plants or plant-like structures could harness solar energy more effectively than conventional solar panels.

BBRSC chief executive Professor Douglas Kell, said: "We are facing global challenges in food and energy security. Improving photosynthesis in plants or externally using synthetic biology would bring huge benefits."

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