Relaxing Photoprotection

Although light is fundamental for photosynthesis to take place, high light intensity can actually damage the plant, much like how high light intensity can cause us to sunburn. To avoid this, plants have several photo-protective mechanisms that protect them by siphoning off any extra light energy as heat. However, when the leaf is shaded, this protective process can inhibit photosynthesis for several minutes to several hours.  

One of these photoprotection mechanisms that plants use to get deal with excess light is called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). NPQ turns on rapidly at high light intensity; however, it is slow to turn off when light becomes limited, such as when a cloud passes overhead. As a result, photosynthetic efficiency decreases as the plant adjusts to the lower light intensity. The RIPE project is speeding up the plant’s recovery rate in shade—allowing the plant to photosynthesize more efficiently as the light intensity fluctuates throughout the day.

Cynthia Amstutz
Steven Burgess headshot
Oliver Dautermann
Elsa de Becker
TJ Higgins
Headshot of Sarah Hutchinson
Steve Long
Kris Niyogi
Dhruv Patel
Don Ort headshot

Reengineering photosynthesis for adaptation to global climate change

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.

By: Richard Jacobs | FutureTechPodcast

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 

Big 10

Illinois biologists power up plant productivity

The BTN LiveBIG campaign is more than school or sports, it is the stories and the impact of innovation, research, and inspiration from all over the conference to make you proud to be apart of the Big Ten. 

By: BTN LiveBIG Campaign


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.

Tapestry of Hope

Tapestry of Hope

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.

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.