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Agriculture This Week: Science learns how plants convert sunlight

As the secrets of photosynthesis are better understood, the opportunity to improve upon the process through plant selection and modification, increase.
If plants convert sunlight more efficiently yields could grow. (File Photo)

YORKTON - When it comes to growing crops you might think it’s a well-understood process given that farmers have been doing it for decades even here on the Canadian Prairies.

Certainly when you look at the technology in a modern field sprayer or combine, it might be expected perfection had been achieved, especially when consider the computer capacity is greater than early rocket ships headed to the moon.

It’s much the same in terms of crop development, with massive strides having been made.

However, we are likely barely on the starting edge of where tech will take the industry.

For example, there is interesting developments in terms of better understanding photosynthesis in plants, which is really the most basic aspect of how plants grow.

“Cell division is one of the most important biological events that occurs in living organisms, as this process provides the building blocks of growth, development and life itself. In a new study recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Plants, University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers took a deeper look into how plants control the growth of the important cells that allow them to convert sunlight into chemical energy,” detailed a recent USask release.

“Mesophyll cells are the site of one of the defining traits of the plant kingdom—the ability to capture sunlight and convert it into chemical energy through photosynthesis—and are arguably the most important cells inside every plant,” said Dr. Chris Ambrose (PhD), an associate professor in the Department of Biology at USask’s College of Arts and Science in the release.  

As the secrets of photosynthesis are better understood, the opportunity to improve upon the process through plant selection and modification, increase. 

If a plant is able to more efficiently use the energy of the sun through the process, the potential for significant increases in production without the need to add more fertilizer to the crop would seem possible. 

If you factor in that suggestion by many of global warming, more sunshine is likely, and the better food crops are in using that sunshine, the more secure crop production is likely to be. 

In the past, science has done a good job of using the most basic of building blocks to increase yields in crop, but as a better understanding on the inner workings of plants come to light, even bigger steps forward are likely to occur. 

It is another example of the important role science plays in the future in terms of feeding a growing population in an ever-changing environment.


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