Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Maths study of photosynthesis clears the path to developing new super-crops

18.10.2013
How some plant species evolved super-efficient photosynthesis had been a mystery. Now, scientists have identified what steps led to that change.

Around three per cent of all plants use an advanced form of photosynthesis, which allows them to capture more carbon dioxide, use less water, and grow more rapidly. Overall this makes them over 50% more efficient than plants that use the less efficient form.

A new study has traced back the evolutionary paths of all the plants that use advanced photosynthesis, including maize, sugar cane and millet, to find out how they evolved the same ability independently, despite not being directly related to one another.

Using a mathematical analysis, the authors uncovered a number of tiny changes in the plants' physiology that, when combined, allow them to grow more quickly; using a third as much water as other plants; and capture around thirteen times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Together, these individual evolutionary advances make up a 'recipe' that could be used to improve key agricultural crops that only use the less efficient form. The study's authors say this knowledge could be used to breed super-crops such as faster growing, drought-resistant rice.

The research was led by mathematician Dr Iain Johnston from Imperial College London and plant biologist Dr Ben Williams from the University of Cambridge, and is published in the journal eLife. They came together to test whether a new mathematical model of evolution could be used to unpick the evolutionary pathways that led to the advanced photosynthesis.

"My main interest is in using tools from maths to make some concrete progress in a problem of real biological and social value," said Dr Johnston. "Encouragingly for the efforts to design super-efficient crops, we found that several different pathways lead to the more efficient photosynthesis – so there are plenty of different recipes biologists could follow to achieve this."

Dr Julian Hibberd from the University of Cambridge, the final author on the paper, added: "This is not only an interesting mathematical result, it should help biological scientists to develop crops with significantly improved yields to feed the world. Like the proverbial roads that all lead to Rome, Ben and Iain have shown that there are many routes taken by plants in the evolutionary process."

The next step for the biologists is to recreate the natural evolution of the more advanced photosynthesis by mirroring the genetic and physiological changes in simple laboratory plants, and eventually in rice.

Journal Reference

"Phenotypic landscape inference reveals multiple evolutionary paths to C4 photosynthesis" was published by Ben P Williams, Iain G Johnston, Sarah Covshoff and Julian M Hibberd in eLife DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00961

Simon Levey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Climate change, population growth may lead to open ocean aquaculture
05.10.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht New machine evaluates soybean at harvest for quality
04.10.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

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: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>