Research, Science & environment

A way to grow plants with less water

By Brett Israel

Crops possibly can be grown with significantly less water by altering a gene involved in regulating photosynthesis, according to new research by a team that included UC Berkeley scientists.

Berkeley professor Krishna Niyogi , chair of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, and his lab found that a protein called PsbS is involved in regulating photosynthetic light harvesting. They thought that increasing the amount of this protein in a plant might make its photosynthesis more efficient.

The idea was tested in field trials at the University of Illinois, where increasing PsbS was found to improve the water-use efficiency of plants — the ratio of carbon dioxide entering the plant to water escaping — by 25 percent without significantly sacrificing photosynthesis or yields. That means the plants were able to thrive on 25 percent less water.

The study was published today in the journal Nature Communications . The research is part of the international research project Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) that is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To learn more about how this technology works, watch the video above.

Read the full story on RIPE's website