Researchers from the United States have presented a method for increasing the yield of all popular crops. To do this, they have increased the efficiency of photosynthesis.
The researchers explained that they estimate that in order to feed 9 billion people by 2050, farmers will need to grow 50% more food on a limited amount of arable land. Therefore, plant scientists are introducing different technologies for higher yields – including by improving photosynthesis.
For example, blue-green algae photosynthesize more efficiently than most crops, so researchers are working to incorporate elements from cyanobacteria into crops.
In a new study from Cornell University, scientists have achieved significant improvements in photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, plants convert carbon dioxide, water, and light into oxygen and sucrose, a sugar used to generate energy and build new tissues. During this process, the enzyme Rubisco (ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase), which is present in all plants, takes inorganic carbon from the air and converts it into an organic form that the plant uses to build tissues.
One of the obstacles to improving photosynthesis in crops is that Rubisco reacts with both carbon dioxide and oxygen; the latter reaction creates toxic byproducts, slows down photosynthesis, and thus reduces yields.
So the scientists removed carboxylic anhydrase, a naturally occurring enzyme, from chloroplasts, the organelles of plant cells in which photosynthesis takes place. This is because the role of anhydrase is to create equilibrium between CO2 and bicarbonate in plant cells, catalyzing reactions in which CO2 and water form bicarbonate and vice versa. But for the mechanism of carbon concentration from cyanobacteria to work in agricultural crops, bicarbonate in the system must reach a level many times higher than the equilibrium level.
When they placed the plants in a high oxygen chamber, they improved their growth several times.