NOV 27, 2016 1:18 PM PST

New Genetic Modification may Improve Crop Yield

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Plants use sunlight in photosynthesis, but they also have a sort of sunscreen, a shield to protect themselves from sun overexposure. That mechanism, called nonphtochemical quenching (NPQ), turns photons from really bright sunlight into harmless heat. That system is reversible, but can take a long time to turn off and because of that, photosynthesis is sometimes not working when it should.

Biologists have now successfully used genetic modification to enable plants to make that adjustment more quickly, which will hopefully lead to more productive crops. In fact, a study published in the journal Science demonstrated up to a twenty percent increase in plant biomass when using this technique on tobacco plants.

This method can now be tested in plants used for consumption, to see if food crop yield increases. To this point, genetic modification hasn't done much to increase food production in plants, a common critique. Another advantage of this new method is that it is possible to use it without mixing genes from different species, which may ease regulatory hurdles in potential applications.
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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