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Int’l Cooperation News

PICB Joins Bill Gates Foundation Project for Higher Crop Yield

Dec 16, 2012

The CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (PICB) joined the five–year, $25-million (~155 million Yuan) research project "RIPE-Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency" launched on December 10, 2012.

The project, funded by the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the University of Illinois, is to improve the photosynthetic properties of key food crops, including rice and cassava. PICB undertakes a sub-project "Modeling crop photosynthetic productivity" from the University of Illinois and bears the responsibility of developing systems models of canopy photosynthesis to define the targets to engineer for improved photosynthetic efficiency.

Researchers in PICB will develop and integrate mathematical models from metabolism level to leaf up to canopy level. With this model, the 3D structure of plant, i.e. rice, cassava and beans, will be first re-constructed in silico, and the plant photosynthesis and crop growth processes will be simulated with different combinations of potential breeding targets under various environments. Through this way, crop ideal-types will be designed and used to guide breeding.

The joint project will bring together an international team of scientists to exploit the understanding of the fundamentals of photosynthesis to increase crop yields of the major "C3 crops" such as rice, cassava and beans.

Increasing photosynthetic efficiency has not yet been addressed by conventional breeding methods, though it has the potential to increase yields and reduce the use of water and nitrogen. Team members will apply recent advances in photosynthesis research and crop bioengineering to the RIPE project. In addition, computer simulation of mathematical models of the highly complex photosynthetic system, combined with practical engineering, will identify the best targets for improving photosynthesis efficiency.

This project is particularly timely given that the United Nations has predicted that food production will have to increase by around 70% in the next 35 years to meet the world’s booming population.

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