Plants convert energy at lightning speed

March 3, 2014

A new way of measuring how much light a plant can tolerate could be useful in growing crops resilient to a changing climate, according to scientists from Queen Mary University of London.

"This is the first time we have been able to quantify a plant's ability to protect itself against high light intensity," said Professor Alexander Ruban, co-author of the study and Head of the Cell and Molecular Biology Division at Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Science.

Professor Ruban added: "A changing climate will lead to fluctuations in temperature, humidity, drought and light. Knowing the limits of how much sunlight a crop can happily tolerate could be valuable information for farmers or people who breed new plants."

Publishing in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B today (Monday 3 March) the scientists demonstrate a novel method that enables them to relate the photoprotective capacity of a plant to the intensity of environmental light by measuring the fluorescence of the pigment chlorophyll, which is responsible for absorbing sunlight.

Co-author Erica Belgio, also at Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Science said: "The plants we used to measure the light varied in their capacity to protect themselves against high levels of intensity. We exposed them to gradually increasing levels of light, from the sunlight more common on a rainy day to the light you would find at noon on summer's day in the south of France and recorded the responses."

The researchers found the plants grown without the ability to respond quickly to high light intensity had a reduced capacity to protect themselves from damage.

"The photosynthetic apparatus in the is like the retina in human eyes – it is sensitive to how much can be soaked up," commented Professor Ruban.

Explore further: Tapping into plants is the key to combat climate change, says scientist

Related Stories

Team discovers how plants avoid sunburn

August 6, 2013

A Dartmouth-led team has discovered a group of stress-related proteins that explains how plants avoid sunburn in intense light, a finding that one day could help biotechnologists to develop crops that can better cope with ...

Harvesting light, the single-molecule way

February 16, 2014

New insights into one of the molecular mechanisms behind light harvesting, the process that enables photosynthetic organisms to thrive, even as weather conditions change from full sunlight to deep cloud cover, will be presented ...

Vibrations influence the circadian clock of a fruit fly

January 31, 2014

The internal circadian clock of a Drosophila (fruit fly) can be synchronised using vibrations, according to research published today in the journal Science. The results suggest that an animal's own movements can influence ...

Researchers test effects of LEDs on leaf lettuce

November 19, 2013

In the life cycle of plants, most developmental processes are dependent on light. Significant biological processes such as germination, shade avoidance, circadian rhythms, and flower induction are all affected by light. Recent ...

Recommended for you

The astonishing efficiency of life

November 17, 2017

All life on earth performs computations – and all computations require energy. From single-celled amoeba to multicellular organisms like humans, one of the most basic biological computations common across life is translation: ...

Unexpected finding solves 40-year old cytoskeleton mystery

November 17, 2017

Scientists have been searching for it for decades: the enzyme that cuts the amino acid tyrosine off an important part of the cell's skeleton. Researchers of the Netherlands Cancer Institute have now identified this mystery ...

0 comments

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.