Monday, November 21, 2016

Decreasing the "Sunshield" in Plants Could Result in Higher Crop Yield

Photosynthesis is a very essential process in the plant world. However, too much sun can damage a plant; therefore, the "sunshield" is simply just a process that converts bright sunlight into heat that cannot hurt the plant. However, this "sunshield" isn't allowing photosynthesis to work at its full potential. Researchers may have found a way to solve this problem.
Image result for crops

Plant biologists have found a way to modify the amount of time a plant reacts to the shade. They realized that if the plant adjusts much quicker to the shade then photosynthesis is much more efficient. Researchers first started off by genetically altering tobacco plants; the results they ended up with were very pleasing. These tobacco plants increased by 20% in biomass.

After this experiment, researchers would like to apply this modification to other crops. They've considered adding the C4 photosynthesis pathway and adding it to rice. Improving RuBisCO was also another option. However, they decided to focus on nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), as explained below.

To guard themselves from bright light—as well as balance their metabolic processes—plants rely on a mechanism called nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), in which chloroplasts divert photons from their light-harvesting molecules and simply waste them as heat. In dim conditions, plants can turn off NPQ to boost photosynthetic efficiency.
In order to turn off the NPQ, researchers have added extra copies of three genes. The proteins of these genes turn the NPQ off much quicker than before. They tried this in tobacco plants again. After 22 days, the plants came back 14%-20% larger and heavier than unmodified plants. Researchers would like to attempt the same modification among multiple species.

This research is one of the more interesting ones I have read about. It's amazing that researchers can modify a plant so much as to increase the growth and yield. Increasing crop yield could be both good and bad for society. Hopefully, the crops aren't affected in a negative way as they begin to test this modification amongst other species.

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