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Rice sun protection and diversity can be key to more food production

Rice sun protection and diversity can be key to more food production

Image: Measuring photosynthesis in rice fields

A team of scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis has decided to combine old and new ways to produce more efficient plants. They focused on rice’s natural diversity by using traditional breeding techniques to select cultivated varieties—or cultivars—that are better at converting sunlight into food.

“We studied hundreds of plants from five rice cultivars and found that there is variation between these varieties in relation to the quantity of light they use for growth or dissipate as heat. Some of them are capable of converting more sunlight into chemical energy, producing greater leaf area over time,” said lead researcher Dr Katherine Meacham.

When leaves intercept sunlight, this sunlight is either; 1) absorbed by the leaf and converted via the process of photosynthesis into the plants own components; leaves, grains, roots, etc. 2) dissipated as heat as an strategy to protect the proteins of the plant from sun damage (photo-protection) or, 3) re-emitted as fluorescent light. In this study, the researchers measured fluorescence to infer the quantity of energy that is either converted into food or dissipated as heat.

The scientists measured fluorescence by clipping light receptors on leaves throughout a whole day to get a full picture of how the plant uses sunlight. “We found that there is room for improvement in some cultivars that can result in more photosynthesis without risking the plant’s protection strategies against sunlight damage,” said Dr Meacham.

 

Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

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