An international team is using advanced tools to develop crops that give farmers more options for sustainably producing more food on less land. To do this, thousands of plant prototypes must be carefully analyzed to figure out which genetic tweaks work best. On 16 May 2019, in a special issue of the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, scientists have shown a new technology can more quickly scan an entire field of plants to capture improvements in their natural capacity to harvest energy from the sun.

"This method allows us to measure improvements we have engineered in a plant's photosynthesis machinery in about ten seconds, compared to the traditional method that takes up 30 minutes," Katherine Meacham-Hensold, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, who led this work for a research project called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE). "That's a major advance because it allows our team to analyze an enormous amount of genetic material to efficiently pinpoint traits that could greatly improve crop performance."

RIPE, which is led by Illinois, is engineering crops to be more productive by improving photosynthesis, the natural process all plants use to convert sunlight into energy and yield. RIPE is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government's Department for International Development (DFID).

(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily.

Photo Credit: Beau Barber/University of Illinois

Scientists analyze thousands of plants in field trials like this to figure out which genetic tweaks work best to boost crop yield. Now they can use a measurement technique that takes 10 seconds—rather than 30 minutes—to assess genetically modified crops.