Biotech Updates

Discovery Brings Scientists One Step Closer to Crops with Twice the Yields

November 15, 2017

Scientists from Wageningen University and Research have found natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants and are unravelling it to the DNA level. Led by Mark Aarts and Jeremy Harbinson, the research team has shown that thale cress has various genes involved in adaptation to the changes in the amount of light to which plants are exposed.

A gene that has been studied in detail is the Yellow Seedling 1 gene, which is involved in the adaptation of chloroplasts to light changes. Due to a variation in this gene, some thale cress plants can handle an increase of light (the difference between a cloudy and a sunny day, for example) better than others. It is the first time that this variation has been found in thale cress, but as the genes for photosynthesis occur in nearly all plant species, the scientists expect that a similar variation can be found in many other crops too.

The discovery shows that it is possible to improve photosynthesis based on natural genetic variation, something which was doubted until now. In the long term, breeding on improved photosynthesis could make crops produce more yield with the same amount of soil, water, and nutrients. This brings the concept of ‘more' (yield) ‘with less' (soil, water and nutrients) one step closer.

For more details, read the news release from Wageningen University and Research.