There’s a reason that one of my browser’s Home tabs is ScienceDaily – I like genuine surprises and paying attention to news in science and mathematics is one of the few places I can actually find surprises that are genuine, news-worthy and educational.
Like this little item: “Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth 40%” from January 3rd, 2019.
It exposed me to at least 3 news terms I’d either never encountered or forgotten a long time ago.
- RIPE –
Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), an international research project that is engineering crops to photosynthesize more efficiently to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity
- Rubisco –
Photosynthesis uses the enzyme Rubisco — the planet’s most abundant protein — and sunlight energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars that fuel plant growth and yield.
- photorespiration –
Over millennia, Rubisco has become a victim of its own success, creating an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Unable to reliably distinguish between the two molecules, Rubisco grabs oxygen instead of carbon dioxide about 20 percent of the time, resulting in a plant-toxic compound that must be recycled through the process of photorespiration.
And the article gave me good news – really good news. Good news for the future survival of mankind.
One of the most basic problems we face is over population. Many of the problems we face can trace their genesis to a side effect of too many people. If we had fewer people we’d generate less pollution, consume less food and gasoline, buy less products and not lean on the world so much to provide our needs and take our garbage.
One of most basic problems of over population is producing enough food for all those stomachs in a world that sees more agricultural land converted to urban-use (not farming) over time.
Or crops to produce cloth for clothing for all those bodies.
Or trees to produce enough lumber to build houses (that’s the way it goes where I live) for all those people.
Well the good news is that the work described in the article can make plants up to 40% more productive by simply fixing a flaw in how they photosynthesize energy. Okay, the plants they tinkered with are tobacco plants – we’ll see how well this works with food crops and other production crops . . . but seeing as it’s a mechanism that runs a process that almost all plants use I’m optimistic.
It won’t fix all our problems by itself but 40% is a BIG DEAL when we’re talking food production.
So a big thank you to Donald Ort, Paul South and the rest of the team at the
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. And all the researchers around the world involved in RIPE. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for stepping up in so many ways to make life better for people around the globe.