Optimizing Canopies

Crops are cultivated at high density to achieve maximum yield. This causes the plants to grow together forming a canopy that becomes so dense light is unable to penetrate to the lower leaves.  The upper canopy leaves receive more light than they are able to use for photosynthesis and the lower canopy leaves receive less light than they could use resulting in the inefficient use of light that lowers yields.

Computer simulations suggest that making the upper canopy leaves lighter and more erect while making the lower leaves darker and more horizontal would allow higher levels of photosynthesis to occur lower in the canopy, greatly increasing canopy photosynthesis and therefore yield. The simulations also suggest that many crops produce too many leaves for optimum light and nitrogen use efficiency and crop yield. RIPE is both engineering and selecting for these optimized canopy forms.

Carl Bernacchi
Ryan Boyd
Amanda Cavanagh
Young Cho
Anthony Digrado
Deepak Jaiswal headshot
Steve Long
Donald Ort headshot
Ursula Ruiz Vera
Sam Stutz
Yu Wang
Xinguang Zhu
Close-up picture of wheat

Engineering Photosynthesis

There’s some bad news, followed by good news, but partially countered by further bad news. The bad news is that our population is growing, and therefore our food requirements, and yet we are approaching the limits of our ability to increase crop yield with cultivation alone. 

By:  | General Science 


Boosting photosynthesis to feed the world

In the next 50 years, the human population and global affluence—both major drivers of agricultural demand—are only expected to increase; researchers estimate that food production will need to grow by 60 to 120 percent by mid-century to keep pace. 

By: Kate Wheeling | Pacific Standard 


Lighter colored upper leaves may be crop ‘photosynthesis hack’

Researchers are determining ways to boost crop production through expanding benefits of photosynthesis and understanding how plants react with light.

Source: Farm Futures 


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.