There is an increased demand for food. The United Nations estimates that food production needs to double by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing global population. At the same time there is increased pressure on land and resources from things like the expansion of urban areas and climate change. This points to an underlying problem – there is a gap between agricultural productivity and the global market demand for food and bioenergy crops. The EU-funded project PhotoBoost will tackle this problem by developing strategies to boost the productivity and performance of essential crops.
PhotoBoost will target the global challenge of increasing food production efficiency by improving the photosynthetic performance and productivity of two essential C3 crops: potatoes and rice.
Photosynthesis is the process of turning the sun’s energy into chemical energy that we – and nearly all life on earth – rely on for food. Our objective is to develop new strategies as well as to improve already established strategies in order to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis and plant biomass accumulation.
The PhotoBoost project will combine two or more strategies to boost photosynthetic efficiency by at least 20 to 25 percent, and biomass yield by at least 25 to 30 percent. This will mean more food can be produced on less land. Existing research from the eight project partners in Germany, Portugal, Spain, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom have already been able to increase photosynthetic performance by 15 percent.
Another essential objective of the project is to improve the understanding of photosynthesis, which could lead to new techniques that can be used to enhance productivity even further. Importantly, these new techniques could increase the robustness of potato and rice crops in changing climates. New crops with a higher biomass accumulation rate will be developed for commercial use, facilitated by two consortium partners from the plant breeding industry.
PhotoBoost will maximise the impact of our work by engaging with all stakeholders to facilitate the evaluation and decision-making process for the adoption of new biotechnology solutions that address current challenges in agriculture.
The project will draw on experts from many different disciplines. These include: computational biology, metabolic modelling, systems biology, enzyme and pathway engineering, synthetic biology to explore the possibilities of multigene transformation of rice and potatoes.
In order to improve the photosynthetic performance of C3 plants, PhotoBoost will combine these strategies:
(a) the optimisation of light reactions
(b) the integration of algal CO2 concentration mechanisms
(c) an engineered photorespiratory bypass
(d) the optimisation of source-sink capacity
(e) improved water-use efficiency by adapted stomatal conductance
(f) the integration of an O2 scavenging mechanism
A number of specially designed field tests, conducted in special secure greenhouses, will be carried out under diverse environmental conditions in order to not only demonstrate the usefulness of the PhotoBoost approaches, but also help to understand how they can be used in practice around the world to improve food and bioenergy crop security for everyone.