Modeling Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is the best-understood plant process: each of the more than 100 discrete steps and underlying genes is known from the light capture and electron transfer to carbon dioxide fixation and sugar synthesis. Coupling this rich knowledge with modeling has enabled us to predict opportunities and optimal engineering designs to improve photosynthesis.

With the rapid increase in high-performance computing, it has become possible to simulate photosynthesis in dynamic models in which each of the coupled reactions is fully represented, providing a realistic in silico representation of the entire process with a system of linked differential equations. We have developed realistic renderings of the crop leaf canopies to more accurately predict the dynamics of crop microclimate and light energy distribution. We can now combine these two kinds of simulations into one robust modeling system. 

Simulation of cassava growing
RIPE simulation of cassava growth. Created by Yu Wang


Peng Fu headshot
Pouyan Khakbaz
Steve Long
Yu Wang

New 3D model predicts best planting practices for farmers

As farmers survey their fields this summer, several questions come to mind: How many plants germinated per acre? How does altering row spacing affect my yields? Does it make a difference if I plant my rows north to south or east to west? Now a computer model can answer these questions by comparing billions of virtual fields with different planting densities, row spacings, and orientations.

Team models photosynthesis and finds room for improvement

Teaching crop plants to concentrate carbon dioxide in their leaves could increase photosynthetic efficiency by 60 percent.