June 9, 2017

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. Over the past sixty years, our understanding of genetics has allowed us to increase yield of crops hugely. This, by taking an edible plant, and increasing the relative biomass of the part you can eat—a bigger grain of rice, for instance. Or a bigger bean from a soybean plant.

But as the world population continues to grow, and change, researchers like Dr. Stephen Long are looking for more ways to grow more food, more quickly.

Plants with high “photosynthetic efficiency” (PE) are plants that efficiently convert sun energy into plant biomass. Understanding and improving PE has been the object of Dr. Long’s whole career. Most plants average a surprisingly low PE: 1%. Even high-PE plants only get up to 3%. Long sees an opportunity to up that number to 9% by editing the genes of plants

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