Did you know that nature’s biggest flaw is related to photosynthesis? One of the most crucial natural processes that could assist us in mitigating climate change, is failing. How? Well, apparently most plants are not only taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A flaw in the process of this uptake triggers the uptake of oxygen by mistake. This in turn creates toxic molecules inside the plants structure.
The process is called photorespiration and it cuts the efficiency of photosynthesis by half.
This has not been much of a problem when many thousands of years ago the atmosphere had more carbon dioxide than oxygen. However, when oxygen became dominant, very few plants were able to evolve. As a results, the majority of the plants are not developing to their full potential. Instead, they put extra energy in cleaning up the toxic compounds. These include all our crops, fruit trees and vegetables, as well as many of the trees in our forests.
This problem is now relevant more then ever before, as our society is facing major challenges. Firstly, we need to find a way to mitigate climate change, and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And secondly, we have to find a way to produce enough food in order to maintain the ever-growing population.
Scientists have spent decades trying to find a way to resolve the issue. Finally, a team from University of Illinois in Urbana, came to a breakthrough. They found a specific genetic modification, which changes the pathways and aids plants deal with the toxic compounds.
The team says that if we genetically modify all crops, there would be a major boost in food production. In addition, we would be able to produce a lot more biomass for biofuels and energy.
The team also believes that the new species would not be presenting much of a problem. The plants would be stronger and more competitive. However, the scientists think the damage would not be any greater than that of the current agricultural practices.
The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Science.
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