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Optimizing photosynthesis to double crop production

By optimizing the photosynthesis process, crop production in the EU can be doubled, according to Wageningen University & Research.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is working within the CropBooster-P EU project on a roadmap to make agricultural crops future-proof. According to WUR, these crops should have a significantly higher yield, combined with an optimal use of water and minerals.

Double the yield of European agriculture by 2050

René Klein Lankhorst, programme developer at Wageningen University & Research and coordinator of the CropBooster-P project, says in an article on the WUR website it is technically feasible to double the yield of European agriculture by 2050.

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According to WUR, current agricultural crops now convert only 0.5 to 1% of sunlight into plant biomass. That can be doubled. - Photo: ANP
According to WUR, current agricultural crops now convert only 0.5 to 1% of sunlight into plant biomass. That can be doubled. - Photo: ANP

Optimising the photosynthesis process

According to Klein Lankhorst, the key to success lies in optimising the photosynthesis process: “The current agricultural crops now convert a surprisingly low percentage of sunlight into plant biomass; some 0.5 to 1%. Doubling the percentage to 1 to 2% is all we need and this has already been scientifically proven to be possible.”

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Klein Lankhorst states that more is needed than photosynthesis alone. “The improved crops will also have to use water and minerals such as nitrogen and phosphorus very efficiently. Moreover, an increased yield should have no impact on quality and nutritional value. A great deal of additional research will be required to achieve this goal.”

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CropBooster-P project

The CropBooster-P project is to clear the way for long-term research. In order to do so, WUR states the parties involved “are establishing the widest possible roadmap containing all existing and future opportunities to increase the crop yield.”

Klein Lankhorst: “Various social parties are resisting the use of modern technology in plant breeding. This is probably partly due to the fact that people don’t feel heard in their objections and doubts related to technological developments. CropBooster-P will therefore from the outset involve society in the development of a roadmap to make our crops future-proof. We will do so by organising a large number of workshops where the challenges facing modern agriculture will be discussed with consumers, the industry and farmers.”

Photosynthesis 2.0 programme

Wageningen University launched the Photosynthesis 2.0 Programme, a 10 year research project that aims to re-design “the engine of biological productivity, photosynthesis.”
According to WUR, scientists from the university led by Mark Aarts and Jeremy Harbinson, have found natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants and are unravelling it to the DNA level. “As a result it should be possible to breed crops that use photosynthesis more effectively in the future, increasing their yield and enabling them to capture more CO2 from the air in the soil,” according to the researchers.

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