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Crop Biotech Update

New Technology to Help Food Crops Thrive in Crowded Fields

November 20, 2013

Research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) has identified a way to increase crop yields by planting fields more densely - a possible solution to producing more food for the world's increasing population. UW-Madison plant geneticist Richard Vierstra and his team is re-engineering phytochrome, a light-sensing molecule, to allow plants to grow normally even when they are planted too close to each other.

In the lab, Vierstra and his team developed the first three-dimensional structures of phytochromes to redesign the photoreceptor to have altered light sensing properties. The team has found a number of mutants that are extremely sensitive to light. These mutant molecules, if genetically engineered into food crops, could trick the plants into thinking they are getting plenty of light, even when they are in a crowded field.

Vierstra said "Instead of 30 inch rows, this technology could enable us to plant corn in 20-inch rows, boosting yields by as much as 50 percent."

For details about this research, read the UW-Madison news release at: http://www.news.wisc.edu/22323.