Friday, June 10, 2016

Scientists trying to tweak photosynthesis to boost rice yields

How does one get a better yield of the paddy? By supercharging its photosynthesis, hope researchers at the International C4 Rice Consortium.
The researchers are trying to make rice plants switch to a more efficient C4 pathway during photosynthesis — the process by which plants produce food — instead of following the usual C3 pathway.
“Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugar using sunlight. In most plants, including rice, carbon dioxide is first fixed into a compound with three carbon atoms. This is commonly referred to as C3 pathway,” said Paul Quick, C4 Rice Centre, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines.
C4 photosynthesis involves alterations to biochemistry, leaf anatomy and cell biology and makes the photosynthetic process more efficient. It leads to the formation of a four-carbon compound, thus minimising the loss of carbon dioxide, Quick explained. But how does this help? In hot summers, particularly in drought-like conditions, there can be a drastic reduction in the carbon dioxide being converted into sugar, due to an energy-intensive process called photorespiration. Plants that solely depend on the C3 pathway for carbon fixation face negative effects of photorespiration, including the loss of carbon dioxide.
“The C4 pathway has a number of inherent benefits: such as increasing the yield by up to 50 per cent (in C4 plants), doubling water-use efficiency, enhancing nitrogen efficiency by 260 per cent and improving radiation-use efficiency by 50 per cent,” said Quick. He was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar, ‘ Development of C4 Rice: Progress and Prospects , organised by the Centre for Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
The TNAU, informed sources say, intends to be one of the many global partners of the consortium in developing C4 rice, an IRRI project that is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Incidentally, Quick visited the TNAU facility here to review the capacity and the initial research undertaken by the varsity’s scientists.

Source : the Hindu 

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