Enhancing crop yields through improvements in the efficiency of photosynthesis and respiration

Andres Garcia, Oorbessy Gaju, Andrew F Bowerman, Sally A Buck, John R Evans, Robert T Furbank, Matthew Gilliham, A Harvey Millar, Barry J Pogson, Matthew P Reynolds, Yong-Ling Ruan, Nicolas L Taylor, Stephen D Tyerman, Owen K Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The rate with which crop yields per hectare increase each year is plateauing at the same time that human population growth and other factors increase food demand. Increasing yield potential (Y p ) of crops is vital to address these challenges. In this review, we explore a component of Y p that has yet to be optimised- that being improvements in the efficiency with which light energy is converted into biomass (ε c ) via modifications to CO 2 fixed per unit quantum of light (α), efficiency of respiratory ATP production (ε prod ) and efficiency of ATP use (ε use ). For α, targets include changes in photoprotective machinery, Rubisco kinetics and photorespiratory pathways. There is also potential for ε prod to be increased via targeted changes to the expression of the alternative oxidase and mitochondrial uncoupling pathways. Similarly, there are possibilities to improve ε use via changes to the ATP costs of phloem loading, nutrient uptake, futile cycles and/or protein/membrane turnover. Recently developed high-throughput measurements of respiration can serve as a proxy for the cumulative energy cost of these processes. There are thus exciting opportunities to use our growing knowledge of factors influencing the efficiency of photosynthesis and respiration to create a step-change in yield potential of globally important crops.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-77
Number of pages18
JournalThe New Phytologist
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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