Photosynthesis lets plants turn sunlight and CO2 into food through a chemical reaction. At present, the fix has been applied to only tobacco plants. The fix includes one of the known steps of photosynthesis called photorespiration.
According to the principal investigator Donald Ort, the calories lost to photorespiration might feed up to 200 million more people every year in the Midwestern United States and even a portion of these calories across the world would help to meet the food demands of the 21st century.
One of the most awkward parts is to involve the enzyme RuBisCO, which blocks a CO2 onto the compound RuBP. RuBisCO slips oxygen for the all-important carbon dioxide molecules for about 20 percent of the time. The product of this reaction is ammonia and glycolate. Both of these compounds are toxic and needs to be quickly separated before causing too much destruction. Plants have evolved themselves to overcome this poison through a process called photorespiration, where plants spend a portion of their energy to keep them alive.
According to Paul South who’s the lead author, most of the plant precious energy is wasted in photorespiration rather on photosynthesis. Plants like wheat, rice, and soybeans experience this toxic buildup and spend more of its energy in photorespiration. These are the major crops on which most of the world’s populations rely.
Over the years many efforts have been taken to find ways to force crop plants to avoid the need to detox. The newly discovered approach is known as Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE). It is interesting to see whether this approach will be translated to other crops and the researchers are working on it.