RIPE researchers named on international ‘Highly Cited’ list

Four RIPE researchers are amongst 6,600 researchers around the world recognized by Clarivate as Highly Cited Researchers.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Illinois research shows crops have drought ‘memory’ to help reduce yield loss

According to new research from the University of Illinois, crops that experience drought conditions or extreme temperatures during their early stages of growth and survive are better able to deal with those same conditions later in their growth cycle.

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C4 bioenergy grass: working towards higher productivity under fluctuating light

In a recent study, published in GCB Bioenergy, a team from the University of Illinois evaluated limitations to photosynthetic efficiency of bioenergy grass species during fluctuating light.

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BBC’s Follow the Food to feature RIPE research

BBC World News’ Follow the Food is a series which explores how we can protect food security in the face of climate change and growing populations. The episode, “The Carbon Challenge,” will air this Friday and feature the RIPE project, RIPE’s Lisa Ainsworth, and our mission in addressing food insecurity.

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Dynamic photosynthesis model simulates 10-20 percent yield increase

A team from the University of Illinois has developed a model that treats photosynthesis as a dynamic process rather than an activity that either is or is not happening.

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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Professor Ting Lu jointly presented with 1 million euro Future Insight Prize for converting waste into food

RIPE member and associate professor of bioengineering Ting Lu jointly received the 2021 Future Insight Prize to convert plastic waste into a safe source of food. 

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Rubisco proton production can enhance CO2 acquisition

Recently published in PNAS, RIPE members at ANU are gaining insight into possibly building Rubisco compartments in crops to increase yield productivity.

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Innovative technologies in the agricultural space provides food and climate security

A team of researchers, including RIPE Director Steve Long, proposed possible technological solutions to our food security and climate change emergencies. 

Moore, Bernacchi, Meacham-Hensold

Not just CO2: Rising temperatures also alter photosynthesis in a changing climate

In a recently published review in the Journal of Experimental Botany, a team of scientists explored temperature impacts on crops across scales.



In their three-part series examining everyday life through the lens of chemistry, PBS NOVA is premiering an episode featuring RIPE's work.

Licors Rice Screenhouse IRRI

Flag leaves could help top off photosynthetic performance in rice

Illinois researchers found that some flag leaves of different varieties of rice transform light and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates better than others.

Bernacchi, Fu, Meacham

Light signal emitted during photosynthesis used to quickly screen crops

Illinois researchers reveal a new approach to estimating the photosynthetic capacity of crops to pinpoint their top-performing traits and speed up the process.

2020 RIPE Highly Cited Researchers

Photosynthesis researchers rank among 2020’s most influential scientists

Four RIPE researchers were among 6,167 researchers recognized by Clarivate as Highly Cited Researchers this year.

Cassava field trials

Cassava may benefit from atmospheric change more than other crops

A new study sheds light on how cassava will adapt to future levels of carbon dioxide: yields increase without diminishing nutritional quality.

RIPE Research Greenhouse

The 'Enlightened' Future of Food

RIPE has established a modern plant phenotyping facility, set in a 9,000 square foot greenhouse to research sustainable ways to increase crop yields.

By: Heliospectra

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During COVID, scientists use computers to understand C4 photosynthesis when labs shut down

A team used computational approaches to understand how C4 crops express key enzymes in bundle sheath cells.

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.

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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.


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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.

Stephen P. Long portrait in a greenhouse.

Long elected to the National Academy of Sciences

University of Illinois crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen P. Long is one of 100 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

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.

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RIPE researchers rank among world’s most influential

The Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list for 2018 includes five team members from Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE). 

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.


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.

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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. 


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. 

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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.


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. 


RIPE’s Susanne von Caemmerer elected fellow of the Royal Society

Plant scientist Professor Susanne von Caemmerer from The Australian National University (ANU) has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in the UK, the longest standing scientific academy in the world.

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RIPE Deputy Director elected to the National Academy of Sciences

RIPE Associate Director Donald Ort is among four University of Illinois professors elected to the National Academy of Sciences this year.


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 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.


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.


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.


Towards smarter crop plants to feed the world

Plant scientists at Lancaster University, with support from the University of Illinois, have made an important advance in understanding the natural diversity of a key plant enzyme which could help us address the looming threat of global food security.


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.


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.


Molecular method promises to speed development of food crops

Modern plant breeders wait weeks or months, not centuries, to discover what the literal fruits of their labors might be; now, a study led has explored the strengths of a molecular method that reduces this wait time to a few days.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Steve 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.