Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Crop achilles' heel costs farmers 10 percent of potential yield

24.01.2017

Scientists assumed leaves at the top of a plant would be the best at turning higher levels of light into carbohydrates--through the process of photosynthesis -- while the lower shaded leaves would be better at processing the low light levels that penetrate the plant's canopy of leaves. Turns out that in two of our most productive crops, these shaded leaves are less efficient than the top leaves, limiting yield.

These findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, could help scientists further boost the yields of corn and Miscanthus, as well as other C4 crops that have evolved to photosynthesize more efficiently than C3 plants such as¬ wheat and rice.


Compared to top leaves, lower leaves of C4 crops such as corn underperform, costing farmers about 10 percent of potential yield.

Credit: Don Hamerman/Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

"The wild ancestors of C4 crops are thought to have grown as individuals in open habitats where the number of leaves that they produced would have been limited by water and nitrogen and most leaves would be exposed to full sunlight" said principal investigator Steve Long, Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois.

"Today we grow these crops in ever denser stands, and provide them with nitrogen and water so that they can produce many more layers of leaves. But as a result, the proportion of leaves that are shaded has increased, and the production of grain will depend more and more on the contribution of this increasing proportion of shaded leaves. So how do the Maseratis of photosynthesis, C4 crops, do when they are on a meager meager fuel ration in the shade?"

Not well, according to this paper: when top and bottom leaves are placed in the same low light, the lower canopy leaves showed lower rates of photosynthesis. Shaded corn leaves are 15 percent less efficient than top leaves--and worse, lower leaves are 30 percent less efficient than the top leaves of Miscanthus, a perennial bioenergy crop that is 60 percent more productive than corn in Illinois.

Considering the crop as a whole, this loss of efficiency in lower leaves may costs farmers about 10 percent of potential yield--a cost that will increase as planting density increases. This 'Achilles' heel' likely applies to other C4 relatives, such as sugarcane and sorghum.

"What's interesting is that we saw this loss in efficiency in the lower canopy was not due to the leaf senescing and dying off--we would have expected that," said first author Charles Pignon, a doctoral candidate in the crop sciences and at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. "The leaves were still perfectly healthy when we were looking at them; they were even darker. In the article, we show through experiments that this was not caused by age."

"Next, it will be important to find out why this loss in efficiency occurs and if there's any way that we can fix it, since overcoming this and gaining a 10 percent increase in production would be very significant," Pignon said.

###

The paper "Loss of photosynthetic efficiency in the shade. An Achilles heel for the dense modern stands of our most productive C4 crops" was published in Journal of Experimental Botany . Co-authors also include Deepak Jaiswal and Justin McGrath, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois.

This work was supported by the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI). The EBI is a public-private collaboration supported from BP in which bioscience and biological techniques are applied to help solve the global energy challenge. For more information, visit http://www.energybiosciencesinstitute.org/.

Media Contact

Claire Benjamin
claire@illinois.edu
217-244-0941

 @IGBIllinois

http://www.igb.uiuc.edu 

Claire Benjamin | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Genomic Biology Photosynthesis canopy crop nitrogen

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

nachricht Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>