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Supporting the growth of more resilient plants, through fresh understanding of photosynthesis

Researchers have developed a computerised, mathematical model to provide new insights into how plants store energy during photosynthesis — the process by which they convert sunlight into energy.

The research team, led by Washington State University (WSU), hopes combining this model with existing and future photosynthesis-related models could have the potential to create plants that can better tolerate the impacts of climate change.

“Photosynthesis is very powerful,” said Associate Professor Helmut Kirchhoff, of WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry.

“If it’s not controlled, it can produce too much energy, which creates dangerous molecules that can kill a plant. Engineering plants with better photosynthetic control would mean those plants could survive in sunnier, warmer conditions.”

Photosynthesis occurs in the thylakoid membranes found in the chloroplasts of plant leaves. Protons are pumped from one side of the membrane to the other, generating positive and negative charges.

Throughout this process, plants continually alter where and how the energy created is stored, depending on factors including the amount of available light, temperature and moisture levels.

The researchers developed their computerised model based on data captured by shining lights of various intensities on plant leaves and measuring changes in light absorption and emission. These observations have provided an improved understanding of what happens inside a leaf under different light conditions.

“We have provided an important piece to the overall puzzle of plant metabolism. If we integrate our model into the bigger picture, it may provide a good path for how to improve plants for certain environments,” Kirchhoff said.

Source: Phys.org

Posted Date: July 21, 2021

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