Washington, March 4 : A team of scientists has discovered a new mechanism that slows the process of carbon dioxide (CO2) fixation in plants, which may ultimately lead to crop improvement.
Discovered by scientists at the University of Essex, the mechanism helps to regulate the way in which plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into sugars.
It acts by putting the brakes on sugar production when there is not enough energy from sunlight available. As sunlight increases, the brakes are rapidly released and carbon dioxide fixation speeds away.
Plants are dependent on sunlight to capture carbon dioxide, which is turned into important sugars via a process called the Calvin cycle. As a result, the amount of sunlight varies during the day.
According to Dr Tom Howard, who contributed to the research, "Plants have evolved a fascinating way to cope with variations in their local environments. Unlike animals, they cannot move on to look for new food sources. This research helps to unlock one way that plants deal with the ultimate variable - the amount of sunshine they receive."
This fundamental research has revealed a novel mechanism and provides a better understanding of the regulation of CO2 fixation in plants.
The work will help to underpin strategies to increase the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by plants, thereby increasing yield for food and biofuel production, and may ultimately feed into the development of 'fourth generation' biofuels.
According to Professor Christine Raines of the University of Essex, "Although this research focuses on the fundamental biological processes that plants use, ultimately, if we can understand these processes, we can use the knowledge to develop and improve food and biofuel crops."