Scientists can now manipulate a plant’s genes to help it use sunlight more efficiently. It’s a breakthrough that could possibly lead to more food grown for an expanding world population. Photosynthesis is how a plant converts sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into food. But the process is very inefficient, using only one percent of available energy. A plant’s protective system kicks in when there’s too much sunlight, allowing it to get rid of extra energy safely. Scientists genetically modified a part of that system and could increase leaf growth as much as 14 to 20 percent. An Associated Press article says the study was published this week in the journal Science. Scientists aren’t turning the protective system off and on, they’re modifying the system to make the plant turn it on and off faster than normal. The study’s lead author, Stephen Long, says, “Now that we know it works, it wouldn’t be too hard to do it to other plants. If you look at other crops around the world, it would increase yields by many million tons of food.”
From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service.