Nevada is the driest state in the United States. Could it become a bastion of corn fields in the future? Not in the 2018 crop year but some year in the future, maybe.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project. RIPE is a $25 million research effort with the goal of developing plants that will increase crop yields by using sunlight more effectively through the process of photosynthesis.
Feedstuffs features a story trumping a breakthrough by the RIPE team. A single gene has been identified in all plants that controls the stomata, which helps conserve water.
The hope is,
crops [can be] engineered to conserve water and resist drought.
For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25% without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, according to an announcement from the University of Illinois.
“This is a major breakthrough,” said RIPE director Stephen Long, the Ikenberry endowed chair of plant biology and crop sciences at the University of Illinois. “Crop yields have steadily improved over the past 60 years, but the amount of water required to produce one ton of grain remains unchanged, which led most to assume that this factor could not change.
“When water is limited, these modified plants will grow faster and yield more; they will pay less of a penalty than their non-modified counterparts.”
The team improved the plant’s water use efficiency — the ratio of carbon dioxide entering the plant to water escaping — by 25% without significantly sacrificing photosynthesis or yield in real-world field trials, the university said.
For this study, the team tested their hypothesis using tobacco, a model crop that is easier to modify and faster to test than other crops.
“Making crop plants more water-use efficient is arguably the greatest challenge for current and future plant scientists,” said co-first author Johannes Kromdijk.
Corn in Nevada may be stretch even for the 2019 crop year. However, the benefits of this research will help future crops mitigate the affects of drought as experienced in Argentina this growing season.
Image Courtesy Foodstuffs