For the first time, RIPE researchers have proven that multigene bioengineering of photosynthesis increases the yield of a major food crop in field trials. After more than a decade of working toward this goal, a collaborative team led by the University of Illinois has transgenically altered soybean plants to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, resulting in greater yields without loss of quality.
Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, or RIPE, is an international research project that aims to increase global food production by improving photosynthetic efficiency in food crops for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, and U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
The researchers first tested their idea in tobacco plants because of the ease of transforming the crop's genetics and the amount of seeds that can be produced from a single plant. These factors allow researchers to go from genetic transformation to a field trial within months. Once the concept was proven in tobacco, they moved into the more complicated task of putting the genetics into a food crop, soybeans.
"Having now shown very substantial yield increases in both tobacco and soybean, two very different crops, suggests this has universal applicability," said Long. "Our study shows that realizing yield improvements is strongly affected by the environment. It is critical to determine the repeatability of this result across environments and further improvements to ensure the environmental stability of the gain."
Additional field tests of these transgenic soybean plants are being conducted this year, with results expected in early 2023.
(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily.