SCIENCE PROJECT

IWYP REALISING INCREASED PHOTOSYNTHETIC EFFICIENCY TO INCREASE WHEAT YIELDS

Improving the efficiency by which wheat plants convert energy from light into biomass in order to achieve greater yields

PROJECT SUMMARY

START DATE:

Friday, January 1, 2016 - 12:15

DURATION:

3 years

PROJECT LEADER:

FUNDERS:

  • BBSRC via University of Essex

A promising but as yet unexploited route to increase wheat yields is to improve the efficiency by which energy in the form of light is converted to biomass through the process of photosynthesis. The overall aim of this project is to exploit the extensive knowledge of photosynthesis and experience gained from its manipulation in model species to produce wheat plants with enhanced photosynthetic performance and increased yield. Numerous studies of the effects of CO2 enrichment in the field, including on wheat, show that increased crop yields can be obtained through enhanced photosynthesis and there is now evidence that improving the efficiency of photosynthesis by genetic modification is one of the promising approaches to achieving higher wheat yield potential. This project is taking a targeted approach to improving photosynthesis by generating genetically modified wheat plants with altered genes coding for enzymes involved in the Calvin cycle where carbon fixation takes place. Growth, yield, physiological and molecular analysis of transgenic plants in high-light controlled environments will be evaluated and the most promising lines will be studied in replicated field trials in the UK and USA to provide meaningful data for future exploitation.

DETAIL

Wheat is one of the major grain crops grown worldwide and provides approximately one-fifth of the total calories consumed globally. However, wheat yields have reached a plateau in recent years and predictions are that yield gains will not reach the level required to feed the 9 billion population anticipated for 2050. To date, conventional breeding programmes have not used photosynthetic ability to select for high yielding crops and this represents an unexploited opportunity. Photosynthetic carbon assimilation has been identified as an untapped target which could increase photosynthetic efficiency and yield by as much as 60%. The overall aim of this project is to exploit the extensive knowledge of photosynthesis and experience gained from its manipulation in model species to produce wheat plants with enhanced photosynthetic performance and increased yield. In this project wheat plants will be genetically modified to alter a number of enzymes in the Calvin cycle to increase the efficiency of the conversion of energy from sunlight into biomass thereby increasing plant productivity. Growth, yield, physiological and molecular analysis of transgenic plants will be undertaken in high-light controlled environments and the most promising lines will be studied in replicated field trials in the UK and USA to determine the impact of these modifications. The data from this work will also be incorporated into systems modelling of photosynthesis thereby leading to rational design outputs for further improvement and increased yield. This project has the potential to produce a step change in the yield of wheat to help meet the predicted future needs to feed the growing population.

PUBLICATIONS

COLLABORATORS

  • University of Essex - Professor Christine Raines; Dr Tracey Lawson; Dr Andrew Simkin
  • Lancaster University - Professor Martin Parry; Dr Elizabete Carmo-Silva; Dr Rhiannon Page
  • University of Illinois - Professor Stephen Long
  • Aberystwyth University - Professor Huw Jones

RELATED READING