Speeding up photorespiration boosts crop production

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PLANTS such as soybeans and wheat waste between 20 and 50 per cent of their energy recycling toxic chemicals created when the enzyme Rubisco—the most prevalent enzyme in the world—grabs oxygen molecules instead of carbon dioxide molecules. Increasing production of a common, naturally occurring protein in plant leaves could boost the yields of major food crops by almost 50 per cent, according to a new study led by scientists at the University of Essex published recently in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

This work is part of the international research project Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) that is supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and U.K. Department for International Development.

In this study, the team engineered a model crop to overexpress a native protein that is involved in the recycling process called photorespiration.