Photosystem II Subunit S overexpression increases the efficiency of water use in a field-grown crop
Insufficient water availability for crop production is a mounting barrier to achieving the 70% increase in food production that will be needed by 2050. One solution is to develop crops that require less water per unit mass of production. Water vapor transpires from leaves through stomata, which also facilitate the influx of CO2 during photosynthetic assimilation. Here, we hypothesize that Photosystem II Subunit S (PsbS) expression affects a chloroplast-derived signal for stomatal opening in response to light, which can be used to improve water-use efficiency. Transgenic tobacco plants with a range of PsbS expression, from undetectable to 3.7 times wild-type are generated. Plants with increased PsbS expression show less stomatal opening in response to light, resulting in a 25% reduction in water loss per CO2 assimilated under field conditions. Since the role of PsbS is universal across higher plants, this manipulation should be effective across all crops.