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Plants could use light even more effectively for food production

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
Scientists have concluded that it is possible to develop plants that produce even more food by reducing the level of pigments which make no contribution to photosynthesis. The conclusion is based on research into the effectiveness of photosynthesis in various light conditions. The scientists discovered that leaf pigments not directly involved in photosynthesis ‘dissipate’ light by absorption rather than using it effectively.

Scientists have concluded that it is possible to develop plants that produce even more food by reducing the level of pigments which make no contribution to photosynthesis.
Credit: © Harald Lange / Fotolia

Scientists from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, have concluded that it is possible to develop plants that produce even more food by reducing the level of pigments which make no contribution to photosynthesis. The conclusion is based on research into the effectiveness of photosynthesis in various light conditions, which was carried out in cooperation with the VU University in Amsterdam. The scientists discovered that leaf pigments not directly involved in photosynthesis 'dissipate' light by absorption rather than using it effectively.

Their findings were published in the scientific magazine Plant Cell.

Scientists around the world have been studying issues related to how plants use light colours for photosynthesis for over 70 years. Now research into the effectiveness of photosynthesis in various light conditions has answered some of the most important questions. It has shown that plants efficiently adapt their leaves to the light colours present where they grow. In this way they use the available light as effectively as possible. The research also demonstrated how specific combinations of various light colours result in more photosynthesis than the sum of the individual light colours. This insight is relevant, among other things, for minimising energy consumption in the lighting of horticultural greenhouses.

Moreover, the scientists discovered that leaf pigments not directly involved in photosynthesis 'dissipate' light. While these non-photosynthetic pigments do absorb light, they do not use it for photosynthesis. This discovery could lead to the development of plants that produce more food by reducing the amount of these non-photosynthetic pigments. This mainly applies to 'protected' cultivation, such as in greenhouses, as at least some of the non-photosynthetic pigments have a protective function, for instance against too much UV light or insect damage. These factors are less relevant in indoor cultivation than in open fields.

Scientists from Wageningen UR and research agency Plant Lighting of first author Sander Hogewoning are currently working on translating the new knowledge into applicable innovations.

The research was supported by technology Foundation STW, NWO, Philips, Plant Dynamics BV, VU University Amsterdam, the Product Board for Horticulture, and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sander W. Hogewoning, Emilie Wientjes, Peter Douwstra, Govert Trouwborst, Wim van Ieperen, Roberta Croce, and Jeremy Harbinson. Photosynthetic Quantum Yield Dynamics: From Photosystems to Leaves. Plant Cell, May 22, 2012 DOI: 10.1105/tpc.112.097972

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Plants could use light even more effectively for food production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112344.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2012, May 24). Plants could use light even more effectively for food production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112344.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Plants could use light even more effectively for food production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112344.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

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