Enzymes with the potential to increase wheat yields

January 28, 2016

Wheat yields could be significantly increased thanks to varieties with a superior form of a common enzyme, according to new research.

Plant scientists at Lancaster University, Rothamsted Research, and The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have been investigating a naturally occurring plant enzyme known as Rubisco to explore its ability to boost and increase crop yields.

In a new paper published this month, the team measured photosynthesis in 25 genotypes of —including wild relatives of (Triticum aestivum)—and found variation exists even amongst closely related genotypes.

Each type was surveyed to identify superior Rubisco enzymes for improving photosynthesis.

Two of the most efficient were Rubisco from plants known as Aegilops cylindrica (jointed goatgrass) and Hordeum vulgare (barley), which both showed promising Rubisco catalytic properties that should be explored in the context of improving photosynthesis, and ultimately grain yield, in wheat.

Models suggest that incorporating the new enzymes into wheat could increase photosynthesis by up 20% under some field conditions.

Wheat is a crucial source of food, providing more than 20 per cent of the calories consumed worldwide. And with projections that the world population will rise to over nine billion by the year 2050, the pressure is on to meet global demand for food.

Professor Martin A. J. Parry of the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) said: "Improving the efficiency of photosynthesis—the way crops turn carbon dioxide in our atmosphere into everything we can eat—may seem ambitious but for us it offers the best opportunity for producing the scale of change in crop yield that we need to feed a growing global population in a changing world climate."

Elizabete Carmo-Silva, LEC lecturer in plant sciences for food security, said: "Both jointed grass and barley are regarded as valuable genetic resources for improving wheat disease resistance, our research suggests that they can also be used to improve biomass production."

Research associates Anneke Prins and Doug Orr conducted the experimental work which was jointly funded by CIMMYT (W4031.11 Global Wheat Program) and by Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the University of Illinois at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

"This is an exciting piece of work showing that Rubisco catalytic properties vary in close relatives of wheat," Orr said. "As part of the RIPE project, we are screening a wide range of species from across the globe, and aim to identify variation that will enable improving photosynthesis and biomass production in rice, cassava and soybean."

Explore further: Spurring production of a sluggish enzyme for crop yields

More information: The paper 'Rubisco catalytic properties of wild and domesticated relatives provide scope for improving wheat photosynthesis' was published in the Journal of Experimental Botany Advance Access.

Related Stories

Fungi may help drought-stressed wheat

December 17, 2015

Scientists at Aarhus University have discovered that fungi associated with plant roots may improve growth and yield of drought-stressed wheat.

Algal genes may boost efficiency, yield in staple crops

May 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —As humanity faces more mouths to feed thanks to a swelling global population, new research has taken a step toward employing genes from blue-green algae to improve staple crop photosynthesis – a potential ...

Researchers to sequence two wheat chromosomes

December 2, 2015

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced today that it would award 1.5 million Euros to a project aimed at providing a reference sequence for two wheat chromosomes, part of the international effort to ...

Recommended for you

Study shows how giraffe assassin bugs outwit spider prey

October 26, 2016

(Phys.org)—A biologist at Macquarie University in Australia has discovered the secret behind the giraffe assassin's ability to catch and kill spiders in their webs. In his paper published on the open access site Royal Society ...

New analysis of big data sheds light on cell functions

October 26, 2016

Researchers have developed a new way of obtaining useful information from big data in biology to better understand—and predict—what goes on inside a cell. Using genome-scale models, researchers were able to integrate ...

Researchers identify genes for 'Help me!' aromas from corn

October 25, 2016

When corn seedlings are nibbled by caterpillars, they defend themselves by releasing scent compounds that attract parasitic wasps whose larvae consume the caterpillar—but not all corn varieties are equally effective at ...

Genome editing: Efficient CRISPR experiments in mouse cells

October 25, 2016

In order to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut genes, researchers must design an RNA sequence that matches the DNA of the target gene. Most genes have hundreds of such sequences, with varying activity and uniqueness in the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.