Show Details

Boosting Photosynthesis

January 7, 2014

Researchers are trying to boost the efficiency of photosynthesis in crops like soybeans, rice and potatoes to feed the world’s growing population.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Boosting photosynthesis…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mikko Koponen Rice Patty Flickr

Rice feeds billions of people, but it doesn’t harvest energy from the sun very efficiently. (Mikko Koponen/Flickr) 

Photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates that make up plants. An enzyme called RuBisCO harvests the carbon with the help of sunlight, but it isn’t very efficient.

HOWARD GRIFFITHS (University of Cambridge):

Less than 5% of that energy gets converted into food or products that we can use.

HIRSHON:

That’s Cambridge plant ecologist Howard Griffiths. He says some crops, like corn and sugar cane, have evolved strategies to make photosynthesis more efficient. He and his colleagues are trying to learn from them in order to supercharge photosynthesis in less efficient crops like soybeans, rice, and potatoes.

GRIFFITHS:

What were hoping to do is improve the efficiency of that enzyme that is the basis for life on earth by enhancing CO2 supply within a given plant to improve the way that it works.

HIRSHON:

This could help feed the world’s growing population and boost biofuel production. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.