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University of Illinois to improve crop yield through photosynthesis in a new global effort
Date:12/10/2012

Champaign, Ill., December 10, 2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a fiveyear, $25-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, including rice and cassava. The project, titled "RIPE Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency," has the potential to benefit farmers around the world by increasing productivity of staple food crops. Illinois research will take place at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), a state-of-the-art facility whose large shared laboratories accommodate multiple groups and encourage cross-discipline interaction.

"This grant will be game changing," says Stephen Long, Project Director and Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois. "This project represents a huge effort to determine and apply the mechanisms of photosynthesis that can contribute to the challenge of this century: food security for all."

Increasing photosynthetic efficiency has not yet been addressed by conventional breeding methods, though it has the potential to increase yields and reduce the use of water and nitrogen. Team members will apply recent advances in photosynthesis research and crop bioengineering to the RIPE project. In addition, computer simulation models of the highly complex photosynthetic system, combined with practical engineering, will identify the best targets for improving photosynthesis efficiency.

"The UN Food and Agricultural Organization predicts that the world will need to increase staple crop yields 70% by 2050," says Long. "The rapid increases that were achieved during the Green Revolution have slowed and will not meet this target. Photosynthesis promises a new area, ripe for exploitation, that will provide part of the yield jump the world needs to maintain food security."

The University of Illinois, a pioneer in the impact of global change factors on crop plants, will lea
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Contact: Nicholas Vasi
nvasi@illinois.edu
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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