After five years of research, a team of scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) have successfully inserted components from cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) into tobacco plants. This experiment represents a significant step forward in improving the efficiency of photosynthesis in food crops and is projected to eventually increase food crop growth and yield by 60%.
Led by Dr. Ben Long, the team was funded by the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) consortium, an association that attempts to combat growing food insecurity by engineering more energy-efficient plants.
Dr. Long’s goal is to change the behavior of the rubisco enzyme in food crops by inserting components from the rubisco enzyme found in blue-green algae. Rubisco is the enzyme responsible for a plant’s ability to capture carbon, and it is three times more efficient in blue-green algae than in food crops like wheat and corn.
This experiment is part of a larger research undertaking at the ANU, which opened the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology in August.