What Is the Next Frontier in Plant Engineering?

Dangl, Jeff and Osbourn, Anne and Orzaez, Diego and Li, Zhikang and Long, Stephen and Schroeder, Julian I. (2018) What Is the Next Frontier in Plant Engineering? Cell, 174 (3). pp. 499-500. ISSN 0092-8674

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That the continuous growth in population will exceed crop production has caused fear of global famine since the 18th century but has been averted by a series of technological innovations in farming—most recently the genetic improvements of the Green Revolution. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predict a 60% increase in crop demand by 2050. But the approaches of the Green Revolution are reaching their biological limits, while global change and declining availability of irrigation water threaten production. Given the 20 years between innovation and availability of new technologies to farmers at scale, we have little time to avoid failure in supply. One crop process that has not been improved is that of photosynthesis: the conversion of sunlight energy into plant matter. Theoretical systems and synthetic analyses of this best known of all plant processes have suggested a number of points from metabolism to organization of leaves where photosynthetic efficiency could be improved (Long et al., Cell 161, 56–66). Today, the first bioengineered demonstrations that these theoretical improvements work in practice in farm settings to very substantially increase yield have emerged. It gives proof of a key means to achieve a much-needed Green Revolution 2.0. Much still is needed to realize this opportunity, but that this is well worth pursuing with urgency is clear.

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23 Jul 2019 08:40
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 01:38