Photosynthesis is the process where plants convert the light energy they collect from sunlight into chemical energy, which fuels the organism’s activities. This process, however, is a double-edged sword, and the increasing temperatures on our planet isn’t helping.
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Photosynthesis generates chemical byproducts that can damage the light-converting machinery itself—and the hotter the weather, the more likely the process is to run amok as some chemical reactions accelerate and others slow.
It would be unsurprising if our plants and crops don’t produce much yield in the near future because of global warming. Fortunately, we have scientists to the rescue.
Now, a team of geneticists has engineered plants so they can better repair heat damage, an advance that could help preserve crop yields as global warming makes heat waves more common. And in a surprise, the change made plants more productive at normal temperatures.
“This is exciting news,” says Maria Ermakova of Australian National University, who works on improving photosynthesis. The genetic modification worked not just in two kinds of model plants, but in a staple crop, rice, suggesting any crop plant could be helped. The work bucked conventional wisdom among photosynthesis scientists, and some plant biologists wonder exactly how the added gene produces the benefits. Still, Peter Nixon, a plant biochemist at Imperial College London, predicts the study will “attract considerable attention.”
More details about this topic over at Science Magazine.
(Image Credit: 9Bombs/ Pixabay)