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How to increase food production? Improve photosynthesis




A corn field is pictured from a hot air balloon on August 20, 2014, in Sable-sur-Sarthe, western France.
A corn field is pictured from a hot air balloon on August 20, 2014, in Sable-sur-Sarthe, western France.
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images

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Ever get a sunburn sitting outside because you are getting some of essential vitamin D? It turns out plants also get sun-damage despite needing to photosynthesize.

Most plants develop a shield that prevent overexposure to bright lights, but that process make photosynthesis much less efficient. A group of biologists at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has developed a way to improve natural shading. Through bioengineering, the researchers were able to increase production by almost 20 percent in Tobacco plants. The proof-of-concept study, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, could have much wider applications. If it survives regulatory scrutiny, similar manipulation in food crops could translate to significantly better yield for farmers worldwide.

Host Larry Mantle speaks with Johannes Kromdijk, one of the main researchers on the project, about how improving photosynthesis could potentially tackle world hunger. 

Guest:

Johannes Kromdijk, postdoctoral researcher at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and one of the authors on the project