News

genetic engineering

Genetic engineering innovation makes plants more efficient at using water

The world population is growing rapidly, and that signals big challenges when it comes to how best to feed and fuel everyone our planet has to support. Already agriculture uses 90 percent of the world’s freshwater supply, but this will need to be stretched even further as Earth’s population increases. Fortunately, genetic engineering may be able to help.

Paul South collecting measurements in field

Helping plants remove natural toxins could boost crop yields by 47 percent

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.

tobacco

Rebooting food: Finding new ways to feed the future

Welcome to the brave new world of food, where scientists are battling a global time-bombs to find new ways to feed the future.

A project begun nearly 15 years ago is finally coming to fruition, as Nigeria is poised to become the first country to release a genetically modified variety of insect-resistant cowpeas to farmers.  “The cowpea growers have been very supportive. They like the GM crop. They have seen it perform and they are ready to grow it," Issoufou Kollo Abdourhamane, the project's manager at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), told me.  Cowpeas, known as black-eyed peas in the United States, are a key

Plagued by pest, African farmers may soon have access to insect-resistant GMO cowpeas—for free

Nigeria is poised to become the first country to release a genetically modified variety of insect-resistant cowpeas to farmers.

The photosynthesis fix

The photosynthesis fix

As world food needs rise, so does the need for faster, more efficient plant growth. Bypassing an error-prone enzyme is one way to do it.

Cowpea protected from a devastating pest, free for smallholder African farmers

Cowpea protected from a devastating pest, free for smallholder African farmers

Across Africa, armies of hungry caterpillars destroy the flowers and pods of cowpeas; casualties can reach 80 percent of this staple food crop if no measures are taken. But the real victims are smallholder African farmers who feed their families on farms smaller than five acres. Next year, they will have the option to grow cowpeas that are resistant to one of these pests.

Flyer

Science is more than labcoats: Clearing plant bottlenecks to feed the world with Katherine Meacham

You may be aware of bottlenecks in your work environment, but did you know that even plants have bottlenecks? What if there was a productivity coach for plants? Someone who could give them all of the secrets to being faster, greener and more productive? Someone who could whisper secrets into plant DNA so that they could transform sunlight into a bigger, better plant self…to be eaten by humans of course.

field

45 million dollars given to U of I research group

Researchers at the U of I are trying to end world hunger and they just got 45 million dollars to help them do it.

plants

U of I researchers tackle world hunger

A research team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I) is working on a project that might eventually change the world: tackling the growing issue of world hunger through increased crop yields.

field

Research seeks solutions for climate change, hunger

Researchers at the University of Illinois are taking the basics of photosynthesis miles farther in Urbana-Champaign test plots and greenhouses — intervening in the process, through which plants use sunlight to produce energy, to create higher yields.

Soybean field at sunset

To feed the world, improve photosynthesis

By reworking the basic metabolism of crops, plant scientists hope to forestall devastating food shortages.

Vera

Video: 2017 Food & Fuel Field Day

Local ag communicator Stu Ellis covered the 2017 Food & Fuel Field Day that showcased RIPE's work to our friends, industry partners, and the media.

Fred and Wilma research

U of I crop research moves at light speed with FRED, WILMA

Don’t let the names fool you; FRED and WILMA are anything but Stone Age. FRED (field roving evaluation device) and partner WILMA (wagon for the investigation of leaves using multispectral analysis), and their respective Ph.D. creators at the University of Illinois, Katherine Meacham and Caitlin Moore, collectively gather much more information much faster than individual scientists clipping light sensors on leaves one at a time.

Researcher in the Field

UI’s RIPE agriculture project aims to tackle growing problem

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed an estimated 9.2 billion people.That's a problem, said Donald Ort, associate director of the RIPE project at the University of Illinois, which is exploring ways to meet this challenge.

Fon Ort

RIPE project shows off progress in photosynthesis research

RIPE Project Associate Director Don Ort discusses field trials that have shown increased biomass in tobacco plants from genetic modification of photosynthesis.

Plants

Adapting plants to global change

How do you feed 7 billion people? How do you grow that much food? That’s the question that confronts plant biologists. As the world population continues to grow, and change, researchers like RIPE Director Stephen Long are looking for more ways to grow more food, more quickly.

clouds

Cloudy days cost yield until scientists hacked photosynthesis

Throughout the growing season seemingly benign clouds pass over millions of acres of crops and inadvertently rob plants of their productivity, costing untold bushels of potential yield. Researchers recently reported in the journal Science that they have engineered a solution and increased the productivity of a crop in the field by 14- 20 percent—they believe this fix could be applied to staple food crops to help meet future global food demands.

Cassava Farmers

Research shows how to grow more cassava, one of the world’s key food crops

What root vegetable is toxic eaten raw but a hunger quencher when cooked, and provides both tapioca flour and the pearls in bubble tea? This question probably will stump many Americans, but is easy for people in the developing world.

tobacco

With an eye on hunger, scientists see promise in genetic tinkering of plants

A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.

Mennenga GMO

21st Show: What does genetically modified mean?

What does it mean when we say that a plant is genetically modified?

Steven Long

The 21st Show: GMO Labeling

RIPE Director Steve Long discusses the recent U.S. GMO labeling bill on the 21st Show.

Don Ort

The 21st Show: GMO safety report

RIPE researcher Don Ort discusses public perception of GMOs in the wake of a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, which states GMOs are safe.

Dr Lee Hickey

Future fare tipped to be GM, GE, ‘organic’ or none as shortages compound

One of the longest running, loudest and bitterest debates about food in modern times centres on the relative virtues of genetically modified and organic crops.

crop

The plan to feed the world by hacking photosynthesis

With the world population projected to soar past the 11 billion mark by 2100, we’re going to need to find some creative new ways of putting food on the table. The latest science-powered plan to feed the world? Hacking photosynthesis.

rice

Boosting photosynthesis to feed the world

In the next 50 years, the human population and global affluence—both major drivers of agricultural demand—are only expected to increase; researchers estimate that food production will need to grow by 60 to 120 percent by mid-century to keep pace. 

photosynthesis

Lighter colored upper leaves may be crop ‘photosynthesis hack’

Researchers are determining ways to boost crop production through expanding benefits of photosynthesis and understanding how plants react with light.

Picture of leaf.

To feed the world, we may need to hack photosynthesis

One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be figuring out how to feed our rising global population. Now, some scientists are making the radical claim that growing more food won't be enough—we literally need to hack photosynthesis.

Tanaka Paddy

Illinois university rice plot could help yields globally

To date, there has been no reason to use the words rice paddies and Illinois in the same sentence, but researchers at the University of Illinois have put the two together with hopes of making an impact on global supplies of the popular grain.

Person walking down a dirt road toward a mountain shrouded in clouds.

Better-bred crops could send global warming out to space

Scientists have used computer models to imagine a world where crops are specially bred to reflect away more light and heat, without compromising productivity.