Thursday, January 18, 2018

Scientists bid to boost crop yields

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Crops

RESEARCHERS at Essex University have been awarded £800,000 to tackle to challenge of feeding the world’s growing population.

Led by Christine Raines, the plant research team will explore new approaches to improve crop yields for both food and fuel.

The grants were awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Projects will include ways of overcoming the limitations of photosynthesis – the process by which plants harvest energy from the sun.

This research could lead to major increases in crop yields for food, bioenergy and the production of renewable chemicals.

Professor Christine Raines said the world needed to produce 70-100% more food to meet expected demand by 2050.

Even a small change to the efficiency of photosynthesis could considerably increase crop yields, making a huge dent in the problem.

“The importance of this work is highlighted by the need to provide both food and fuel for an ever-growing world population,” explained Professor Raines.

“Although photosynthesis is the primary determinant of plant yield it has never been used in breeding programmes and this work will begin to address this important, but overlooked, approach to develop higher yielding crop plants.”

Science minister David Willetts said food security was an important issue for governments and researchers worldwide.

He added: “If we can gain a better understanding of the scientific processes underlying food production, we are a significant step closer to being able to support an increasing global population in future.”

A second grant awarded to the Essex University team by the BBSRC is through the Crop Improvement Research Club (CIRC).

This collaboration with Rothamsted Research aims to identify high yielding varieties of modern wheat, based on photosynthetic performance.

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