Although light is necessary for photosynthesis, damage can occur when leaves are exposed to high light intensity. To avoid this, plants have developed several photo-protective mechanisms. Non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) is one of those mechanisms, which allows excessive absorbed irradiance to be dissipated as heat. NPQ turns on rapidly at high light intensity, however it turns off more slowly upon a return to limiting irradiance. As a result, the quantum yield of photosynthesis is temporarily reduced, while NPQ adjusts to the lower light intensity. The RIPE project tries to speed up the relaxation of NPQ after a transition from high to low light intensity, thereby allowing a faster recovery of photosynthetic quantum yield.
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.
As reported in Nature Communications, RIPE has improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent—without compromising yield—by altering the expression of one gene.
Sweat sneaks beneath Kasia’s sunglasses as she tiptoes around the carefully organized research plots, orchestrated using GPS technology. The tiny plants reach up to grasp the sun, creating a mosaic of greens and yellows as they grow and mature, a tapestry of hope for the researchers who have cared and cultivated them.
Researchers report in the journal Science that they can increase plant productivity by boosting levels of three proteins involved in photosynthesis.