ILI RIPE ImageScientists at the University of Illinois have found a way to enhance yields by engineering a more efficient way for crops to convert sunlight into energy.

Researchers participating in an international study called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency – or RIPE – have discovered that most crops on the planet experience suppressed yield potential as a result of a glitch in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy.

To combat the problem, scientists have developed a shortcut in the photosynthetic process that can make crops about 40 percent more productive. The study estimates that up to 200 million additional people could be fed with the production lost during photosynthesis in the Midwest.

The engineered shortcut reroutes the photosynthetic process through different parts of the plant cell, shortening the process and allowing the organism to save energy that can then be used for crop growth.

More than two years of studying the engineered plants revealed that, compared to normal crops, the engineered plants developed faster, grew taller and produced about 40 percent more biomass.

The technology is expected to be implemented into food crops in the next decade to substantially increase the world’s food productivity and RIPE and its sponsors are committed to ensuring that small farms have royalty-free access to the project’s discoveries.

Learn more about RIPE and the work of researchers at the University of Illinois.