Cowpea rows

Scientists further cowpea research—boosting canopy CO2 assimilation, water-use efficiency

RIPE has analyzed how much variation exists within cowpea lines in light absorption and CO2 assimilation throughout the canopy.

Three scientists hold plants that are unmodified, have one modification, and that have two modifications.

Third breakthrough demonstrates photosynthetic hacks can boost yield, conserve water

RIPE has resolved two major photosynthetic bottlenecks to boost plant productivity by 27 percent in real-world field conditions.

2018 Illinois Summer Fellows with Charles Pignon

Undergrad-led study suggests light environment modifications could maximize productivity

A new study looks into the cause of a maladaptation in C4 crops and found that altered light conditions, not leaf age, were their Achilles’ Heel. 

Three researchers pose next to wheat in a glasshouse.

Scientists take a step closer to heat-tolerant wheat

Researchers found out how to trigger photosynthesis more efficiently at higher temperatures in wheat.

Lisa Ainsworth

Lisa Ainsworth of USDA-ARS elected to the National Academy of Sciences

RIPE research leader Lisa Ainsworth has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences—one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. 

Research team stands by picture of hyperspectral data.

Technology to screen for higher-yielding crop traits is now more accessible to scientists

To drive progress toward higher-yielding crops, our team is revolutionizing the ability to screen research plots for key traits.

Image shows phenotypic differences in 8 rice varieties.

Photosynthesis varies greatly across rice cultivars—natural diversity could boost yields

Our team found a 117% difference between how rice plants harness fluctuating light to fix carbon dioxide into food, suggesting a new trait for selection.

An illustration of Liana Acevedo-Siaca

Meet some of RIPE's wonder women

In celebration of International Women's Day, the RIPE project is shining a spotlight on some of our female scientists.

Yu Wang and Steve Long sit on desk next to a computer displaying their model.

Boost soybean yields by adapting photosynthesis to fleeting shadows, according to model

Soybeans may lose 13 percent of their productivity grappling with changes in light. 

Provost, Stephen Long, Associate Dean Ando, Dean Kidwell pose together

Stephen Long invested as the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences

Stephen Long has been invested as the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, one of the most distinguished honors at Illinois.

2019 RIPE Highly Cited Researchers headshots

RIPE researchers among 2019’s most influential scientists

This year RIPE has four team members recognized as Highly Cited Researchers by the Web of Science group.

Representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation breaking ground

Breaking ground on phenotyping facility at the University of Illinois Research Park

Representatives from Illinois and the Gates Foundation broke ground on a state-of-the-art phenotyping facility.

Amanda De Souza in a cassava field

Scientists find ways to improve cassava, a ‘crop of inequality’ featured at Goalkeepers

A new study has identified opportunities to increase the yields of the staple root crop cassava.

Jim Moroney

Missing link in algal photosynthesis found, offers opportunity to improve crop yields

Our team discovered a missing link in the photosynthetic process of green algae that could help boost crop productivity.

Scientific image from the paper.

Improved model could help scientists better predict crop yield, climate change effects

Our team created a computer model of how microscopic leaf pores open in response to light to create better virtual plants.

 

Picture of team

Scientists stack algorithms to improve predictions of yield-boosting crop traits

RIPE researchers have stacked together six algorithms to more accurately predict high-yielding crop traits. 

Scientist measuring a plant using spectral analysis.

New technology allows scientists to measure photosynthesis much more quickly

A new method can quickly capture improvements to plants' natural capacity to harvest energy from the sun.

Three researchers stand in field trial.

Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth by 40 percent

The RIPE project has engineered a shortcut for photorespiration—an energy-expensive process—and increased crop productivity by 40 percent.

Steve Long and Don Ort stand in a soybean field.

RIPE project receives additional $13 million to accelerate progress to redesign photosynthesis

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increases RIPE project investment to complement support from FFAR and DFID to improve yields for farmers worldwide. 

Team stands in greenhouse holding plant.

Blue-green algae promises to help boost food crop yields

In a breakthrough, RIPE has engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from blue-green algae into plants to significantly boost crop yields one day.

Researchers stand in field trials.

Scientists boost crop production by 47 percent by speeding up photorespiration

RIPE has increased crop production 27 to 47 percent by speeding up a process called photorespiration.

Cassava seedlings grow in a black seed tray.

Cassava breeding hasn’t improved photosynthesis or yield potential

RIPE found unimproved varieties of cassava photosynthesize better than those selected for improved pest and disease resistance.

Stoma

Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

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.

light green plants

Light green plants save nitrogen without sacrificing photosynthetic efficiency

RIPE scientists designed plants with light green leaves to allow more light to penetrate the crop canopy to increase light-use efficiency and yield. 

soybeans

Hacking evolution, screening technique may improve most widespread enzyme

Scientists have developed tools to simulate millions of years of evolution in days to help plants adapt to changing conditions. 

Long, Ort

The time is RIPE to transform agriculture and feed the world

University of Illinois receives grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FFAR, and DFID to catalyze photosynthetic improvements, increase yields for farmers worldwide

TJ Higgins working with cowpea breeders in Africa

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

Researchers have engineered cowpea—one of the most important sources of vegetable protein for rural families in sub-Saharan Africa—to produce the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein.

researchers

Incremental discovery may one day lead to photosynthetic breakthrough

While we have modeled the more-than-100 major steps of photosynthesis, scientists are still discovering the purpose of proteins that can be engineered to increase yield. RIPE has uncovered secrets about another protein, CP12—the full understanding of which may provide an additional route to boost yields in the future.

crops in field

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.

field day

Mark your calendar for the 2017 Food & Fuel Field Day

Media, industry, and policymakers are invited to see the plants that could help feed and fuel the world by 2050 and meet the scientists who engineered them at the 2017 Food & Fool Field Day on Thursday, July 13, at the University of Illinois Energy Farm. 

team

Newly characterized protein has potential to save U.S. farmers millions annually

Instead of turning carbon into food, many plants accidentally make a plant-toxic compound during photosynthesis that is recycled through a process called photorespiration. University of Illinois and USDA/ ARS researchers report in Plant Cell the discovery of a key protein in this process, which they hope to manipulate to increase plant productivity.

soybean

Soybean plants with fewer leaves yield more

Using computer model simulations, scientists predicted fewer leaves could boost yields and confirmed it works in real-world field trials—increasing soybean production by 8%. This yield gain, which far surpasses the one percent average, is needed to produce 70-100% more food by 2050 to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people.

Illustration of modified and non-modified plants

Scientists tweak photosynthesis and boost crop yield, proving it can be done

Researchers report in the journal Science that they can increase plant productivity by boosting levels of three proteins involved in photosynthesis.

root

Researchers root for more cassava research

Cassava makes up nearly 50 percent of the diet in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where populations are projected to increase by more than 120% in the next 30 years. With stagnant yields for the last half-century, scientists realize the need to focus their efforts on this crop now.

gene

Rapid gene analysis method accelerates photosynthesis studies

In a recent study, researchers used a rapid screening technique that genetically engineers plants--in real time--to investigate how to help plants realize their full potential on cloudy days.

crop

One crop breeding cycle from starvation

In the race against world hunger, we’re running out of time. By 2050, the global population will have grown and urbanized so much that we will need to produce 87 percent more of the four primary food crops – rice, wheat, soy, and maize – than we do today.

wheat

Enzymes with the potential to increase wheat yields

Wheat yields could be significantly increased thanks to varieties with a superior form of a common enzyme, according to new RIPE research.

crops

Team calls for an integrated field research network in the Midwest to address climate adaptation

Despite record-high yields of corn and soybean across the United States in 2014, climate scientists warn that rising temperatures and future extreme weather may soon put crop yields like this in danger.

Photosynthesis

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050

Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in the journal Cell.

enzyme assembly

A protein “chaperone” that is key to achieving enhanced crop yield

Australian scientists have found a way to improve production of an enzyme essential to plant growth. The discovery advances efforts to improve global food security that aim to increase the yields of some of our most important staple crops, such as wheat, cotton and rice.

kumar/long

Computer model amounts to a lot more than a hill of beans

Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained food and water resources.

long

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.

Don Ort, Steve Long

University of Illinois to improve crop yield through photosynthesis in a new global effort

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a five–year, $25-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, including rice and cassava.