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.
Donald Ort's area of expertise lies in the area of photosynthesis and the ability to reengineer it to be adapted for global climate change and to improve its efficiency in agricultural situations.
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. Experts can quibble about whether or not we are at or near the limit, but it’s pretty clear that we are not going to double crop efficiency in the next 50 years through cultivation.
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.