It is vitally important that for us to develop a uniform means to quantitatively benchmark all of our photosynthetic improvements. We have built a central facility that transforms each construct into a single genotype of a model crop, tobacco. Tobacco was chosen as the initial test crop solely because it is relatively easy to work with in the laboratory, greenhouse, and field—and results can be seen quicker. It also shares common traits with many important food crops so the lessons learned should be transferable.
Transformations are confirmed, from gene expression to production of the targeted proteins, and then phenotyped in the greenhouse and tested in replicated field trials. Once a trait is proven to be successful, we begin the more difficult and time-consuming task of transforming staple food crops, including soybeans, cassava, cowpea, and rice.