Research centre aims to secure food for the future through photosynthesis

Wednesday, 29 October, 2014


A research centre has been established to explore new technologies for improving crop yields, by improving the way that plants capture the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis will seek to increase yields of major crops such as wheat and rice.

“This is an underexploited area of science that could enable us to feed future populations. By 2050, nine billion people are expected to survive on Earth with the food resources produced by plants; today’s agricultural methods will struggle to meet these demands,” said the director of the centre, Professor Murray Badger.

Photosynthesis is vital for all life on earth, but scientists have only recently developed the technology to manipulate photosynthesis at a molecular level.

“We now have tools that could initiate a new agricultural revolution through enhanced photosynthesis,” Professor Badger said.

“One of our goals is to bridge the knowledge gap between cellular and crop research and engage with agricultural industries.”

Long-term funding is one of the features of the ARC Centres of Excellence Scheme, said Professor Aidan Byrne, CEO of the ARC.

“The scheme allows relationships to be built nationally and internationally, and for relationships to be developed between universities and industry,” he said.

“This particular centre has established links that will enhance the prospects of translating genetic improvements into crops. This is an important research program at a time when there is unprecedented demand on food supply and food security.”

The centre will use the $22 million funding from the ARC to focus on national priority research areas, such as securing agricultural sustainability and developing plant varieties that are more resilient to climate change.

The strategic partnership brings together world leaders in photosynthesis research from six institutions: The Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, the CSIRO and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

The centre, which is located at The Australian National University, features state-of-the-art plant science facilities and the most sophisticated suite of photosynthetic measurement technologies in Australia.

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