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One particular of the greatest challenges of the 21st century will be figuring out how to feed our rising international population. Now, some scientists are creating the radical claim that increasing additional meals won't be enough—we actually require to hack photosynthesis.

Humans have been breeding crop plants to develop faster and yield more for roughly 10,000 years. The technological developments of the mid-20th century saw fast increases in agricultural productivity, which kicked off an era of exponential population growth. But in the previous many decades, yield improvements have slowed as several crops have reached their biological limits. If we'd like to continue hastening crop growth to meet the demands of our rising population (there could be almost ten billion of us by mid-century), natural breeding programs could not cut it anymore.

But what if we could do something a lot more dramatic? When it comes to squeezing calories into our crops, photosynthesis—the biochemical pathway that plants use to turn carbon dioxide into sugar—is ultimately the price-limiting step. According to a report authored by University of Illinois plant biologist Stephen Lengthy and colleagues, there is under no circumstances been a far better time to attempt our hand at hacking the biochemical pathway that's fed the planet for over 3 billion years:

"We now know each and every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in C3 crop plants such as soybeans and C4 plants such as maize," Extended said in a statement. "We have unprecedented computational resources that allow us to model each stage of photosynthesis and decide where the bottlenecks are, and advances in genetic engineering will enable us augment or circumvent these actions that impede efficiency."

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