Researchers at Wageningen University & Research recently discovered a natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants, and have traced this all the way down to DNA level. With this knowledge, growers will be able to breed crops in the future that make better use of photosynthesis.
Crops that make more efficient use of photosynthesis can produce a higher yield and capture more carbon dioxide from the air in the soil. This is an important step towards solving the impending world food crisis and meeting the objectives set down in the Paris climate agreement.
Yellow Seedling 1 gene
A team of researchers has demonstrated that thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a frequently used model organism for plant genomics), contains various genes that are involved in the process of adapting to changes in the amount of light to which plants are exposed. The researchers studied one gene, the Yellow Seedling 1 gene, in great detail. This gene is involved in the process used by chloroplasts in adjusting to changes in light. A variant of this gene caused some thale cress plants to better cope with increased exposure to light in comparison to other plants.
This discovery demonstrates that it is possible to improve photosynthesis based on natural genetic variation. This was initially greeted with some scepticism. Considering that genes for photosynthesis appear in almost all plant varieties, the researchers expect that such a variation of the Yellow Seedling 1 gene also occurs in many types of crops.
By breeding plants on improved photosynthesis crops could, in the long term, produce a greater yield with the same amount of soil, water and nutrients. This will enable us to more rapidly approach the ideal of ‘achieving more (crop yield) with less (soil, water and nutrients)’.
Source/image: Wageningen University & Research.