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Newly Characterized Protein Has Potential to Save US Farmers Millions Annually

05:11 EDT 3 Apr 2017 | Meridian Institute

A more thorough understanding of a process called photorespiration in plants could help scientists increase plant productivity. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois, United States, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service have discovered a key protein in this process. "Photorespiration is essential for C3 plants, such as rice and soybeans, but operates at the massive expense of fixed carbon and energy," said Don Ort, a USDA/ARS scientist and professor of Plant Biology at Illinois. "We have identified photorespiration as a primary target to improve photosynthetic efficiency as a strategy to improve crop yield. Successfully re-engineering photorespiration requires deep knowledge of the process, for which understanding of transport steps is most lacking." Added Berkley Walker, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany, and co-author of the report, "We could feed around 200 million people with the calories lost to photorespiration each year just in the Midwestern United States. While we can't get all that yield back, even saving 5% of the energy in lost in photorespiration would be worth millions of dollars annually." The team’s work was published in the journal Plant Cell.

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