Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Discover What Plants Do During Long Winter Nights

02.01.2004


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:
http://www.jic.ac.uk
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/tpj

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>