Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists Discover What Plants Do During Long Winter Nights


In research published today scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich(1), report on what plants do during the hours of darkness. During daylight hours plants use the energy from sunlight to power the production of food (sugar) from carbon dioxide and water. This process (photosynthesis) is well understood, but what happens when the sun goes down? The JIC researchers have found a previously unknown sugar transport system within plants and this has, for the first time, shed light on what plants do in the darkness. Their research is published in two related papers in international science journals ‘Science’ and ‘The Plant Journal’(2).

That plants use energy from sunlight to power the production of sugar from carbon dioxide and water is familiar to many people. Photosynthesis is a hugely important process because it sustains most of the food chains on the planet as well as recycling carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Worldwide, plants use solar energy to capture millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every day. They convert it first to sugar and then to carbohydrate, fat and protein – some of which we harvest for food.

”Photosynthesis is well understood, but our discovery is really exciting because it gives us a new insight into how plants control the use of the sugar that they produce” said Professor Alison Smith (Head of the Metabolic Biology Department and leader of the research team at the JIC). “We already know that sugar is the starting point for all of the processes of plant growth and development, but our work shows how plants ensure that even in the darkness of long winter nights, they have sufficient sugar to meet their needs”.

As well as making sugars from carbon dioxide, photosynthesis also makes some starch. This is temporarily stored in the leaf during the day. At night, when photosynthesis and hence conversion of carbon dioxide to sugars is not possible, the starch is broken down to make sugars. This maintains the supply of sugars, thereby allowing the plant to survive and grow during the hours of darkness. The discovery by John Innes Centre scientists reveals for the first time the mechanisms inside leaves that are responsible for converting millions of tonnes of starch to sugars each night.

The way that plants use the sugar they make in photosynthesis is of enormous significance in agriculture. Understanding how the sugar is used will enable plant breeders to develop crops in which more of the sugar goes into useful products in the seeds, leaves and tubers of crops. This will increase agricultural efficiency by increasing the proportion of useful material that crops produce. Conversion of starch into sugars is also of great significance in controlling the sweetness, taste, quality and storage characteristics of many fruits. In tomatoes, for example, higher starch content both improves processing quality and reduces the energy required for processing.

Ray Mathias | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>