New and more efficient ways to reduce water use and improve plant growth

A breakthrough, led by a team of University of Glasgow plant scientists, revealing a new, sustainable way for plants to increase carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake for photosynthesis while reducing water usage, has been published in the journal Science here.

A new, synthetic light-activated ion channel, engineered from plant and algal virus proteins was used to speed up the opening and closing of the stomata – pores in the leaves of plants - through which carbon dioxide (CO2) enters for photosynthesis.

Photo of plants outsideProfessor John Christie, Professor of Photobiology from the Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology, said: “Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of improving the efficiency of water use by plants while making gains in photosynthetic CO2 assimilation and plant growth.”

Professor Mike Blatt, Regius Professor of Botany, added: “Previous efforts to improve plant water use efficiency have focused on reducing stomatal density, despite the implicit penalty in CO2 uptake for photosynthesis. Alternative approaches, like the one we have used, circumvent the carbon-water trade-off and could be used to improve crop yield, particularly under water limiting conditions.”

First published: 4 August 2019