Supercharged Photosynthesis Elevates Soybean Yields

Aug 30, 2022

Some good news for soybeans! Scientists have found a way to increase yields by as much as 30% through genetic modifications to boost photosynthesis efficiency.

How did they do it? Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) researchers have spent more than a decade working on improving the 100+ step process that plants perform daily to change sunlight into energy.

Researchers upgraded the VPZ construct in the soybean plant to boost photosynthesis and then tested it.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 (a recent UN report) found that in 2021, 10% of the world population was hungry.

By 2030, more than 660M people are likely to be food insecure and malnourished, UNICEF reported.

Soundbite: “Our research shows an effective way to contribute to food security for the people who need it most while avoiding more land being put into production. Improving photosynthesis is a major opportunity to gain the needed jump in yield potential,” said Amanda De Souza, RIPE project research scientist.

Without getting too technical… Researchers found a way to accelerate the process of relaxing photoprotection (via overexpression of the three genes in the VPZ construct), so every time a leaf goes from light to shade, photoprotection turns off faster.

This means added minutes of photosynthesis, which increases the photosynthetic rate across the growing season.

The best news of all? Yields increased by up to 33% in some trials without any sacrifices to seed quality.

“This validates increasing photosynthetic efficiency as a much needed strategy toward sustainably increasing crop yield in support of future global food security,” said RIPE director, Stephen Long.

Where this goes: Research teams will replicate testing, with a bulk of the data coming in 2023.