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 How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores

24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Synthetic nanoparticles achieve the complexity of protein molecules

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

PPPL physicist uncovers clues to mechanism behind magnetic reconnection

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>