Seed World

Discovery of New Plant Switch Could Boost Crops, Biofuel Production

A team of Michigan State University researchers has discovered a switch that regulates plant photosynthesis — the process that lets plants store solar energy and use it to grow and produce food.
Photosynthesis stores energy in two forms that are used to power plants’ metabolism. The amount of energy flowing into each of these must be perfectly balanced to match the needs of plants’ metabolism or the plant will self-destruct.
The results, featured in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focus on what happens when photosynthetic output becomes unequal and plants begin to produce toxins that must  immediately be addressed.
The MSU-led team was able to show that one of these toxins, hydrogen peroxide, signals for the activation of an alternative photosynthetic pathway called cyclic electron flow, or CEF.
Identifying the function of this switch could aid in the development of plants with improved efficiency and resilience to environmental stresses, which might help ease global demand for food and fuel as climate changes.
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