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Photosynthetic antenna engineering to improve crop yields


Main conclusion

Evidence shows that decreasing the light-harvesting antenna size of the photosystems in tobacco helps to increase the photosynthetic productivity and plant canopy biomass accumulation under high-density cultivation conditions. Decreasing, or truncating, the chlorophyll antenna size of the photosystems can theoretically improve photosynthetic solar energy conversion efficiency and productivity in mass cultures of algae or plants by up to threefold. A Truncated Light-harvesting chlorophyll Antenna size (TLA), in all classes of photosynthetic organisms, would help to alleviate excess absorption of sunlight and the ensuing wasteful non-photochemical dissipation of excitation energy. Thus, solar-to-biomass energy conversion efficiency and photosynthetic productivity in high-density cultures can be increased. Applicability of the TLA concept was previously shown in green microalgae and cyanobacteria, but it has not yet been demonstrated in crop plants. In this work, the TLA concept was applied in high-density tobacco canopies. The work showed a 25% improvement in stem and leaf biomass accumulation for the TLA tobacco canopies over that measured with their wild-type counterparts grown under the same ambient conditions. Distinct canopy appearance differences are described between the TLA and wild type tobacco plants. Findings are discussed in terms of concept application to crop plants, leading to significant improvements in agronomy, agricultural productivity, and application of photosynthesis for the generation of commodity products in crop leaves.

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