15-IWYP Realising increased photosynthetic efficiency to increase wheat yields

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

Numerous studies of the effects of CO2 enrichment in the field, including wheat, show that increased crop yields can be obtained through increased photosynthetic carbon assimilation. Furthermore, experiments conducted in the applicant's laboratories on transgenic plants, in which activities of individual enzymes were altered, provided evidence that manipulation of the Calvin cycle has the potential to improve photosynthesis and increase plant productivity. These studies together with integrated systems modelling identified photosynthetic carbon assimilation as an untapped target to increase photosynthetic efficiency and yield by as much as 60%. The overall aim of this project is to exploit the extensive knowledge of photosynthesis and experience gained from its manipulation in model species to produce wheat plants with enhanced photosynthetic performance and increased yield. We will undertake growth, yield, physiological and molecular analysis of transgenic plants in high-light controlled environments, and test the most promising events these in replicated field trials in the UK and in Illinois. Given that our aim is to further increase yields we will be using two modern top yielding cultivars one adapted to W. European temperate conditions and the other to the US Midwest with high humidity and high temperature. Each will be tested in replicated trials in their "native" environments. Use of these two very different growing environments and genetic backgrounds will test the broader efficacy of the transgenic modifications to provide a sound basis for the production of higher yielding varieties for the developing world.

Technical Summary

Numerous studies of the effects of CO2 enrichment in the field, including wheat, show that increased crop yields can be obtained through increased photosynthetic carbon assimilation. Furthermore, experiments conducted in the applicant's laboratories on transgenic plants, in which activities of individual enzymes were altered, provided evidence that manipulation of the Calvin cycle has the potential to improve photosynthesis and increase plant productivity. These studies together with integrated systems modelling identified photosynthetic carbon assimilation as an untapped target to increase photosynthetic efficiency and yield by as much as 60%. The overall aim of this project is to exploit the extensive knowledge of photosynthesis and experience gained from its manipulation in model species to produce wheat plants with enhanced photosynthetic performance and increased yield. We will undertake growth, yield, physiological and molecular analysis of transgenic plants in high-light controlled environments, and test the most promising events these in replicated field trials in the UK and in Illinois. Given that our aim is to further increase yields we will be using two modern top yielding cultivars one adapted to W. European temperate conditions and the other to the US Midwest with high humidity and high temperature. Each will be tested in replicated trials in their "native" environments. Use of these two very different growing environments and genetic backgrounds will test the broader efficacy of the transgenic modifications to provide a sound basis for the production of higher yielding varieties for the developing world.

Planned Impact

Statement of Research Impact in Relation to the IWYP Goals and Criteria

This project aligns fully with the scope of the IWYP call in that what we propose is both transformational and high risk, using new technologies and approaches.
Specifically this proposal fits with: Research Area A/B: Discovery or creation of genetic variation in wheat that boosts the fixation of carbon into biomass for subsequent transfer to grains, Research Area E: Taking advantage of discoveries coming from other species.
We will create genetic variation in wheat using a transgenic approach to increase carbon fixation and biomass to increase grain yield. The UK and the US Midwest provide very different wheat growing environments and for this reason will provide a test of robustness of a transgenic improvement in very different climates. The proposed project will take a targeted approach to improving photosynthesis. We will exploit knowledge based on data from other species obtained from our previously funded BBSRC grants which have provided clear evidence that by manipulation of the photosynthetic process in wheat we can realise substantial increases in yield potential. In the short term (9-15 months) we will generate novel germplasm based on rational and targeted single and double gene manipulation, the impact of which will be determined in the field providing robust data for future exploitation. Medium term (15 -30 months) this project will provide additional novel lead events from plants with multigene manipulations shown to have improved photosynthesis and yield in both the greenhouse. Long term (30 months and beyond) Field trials of plants with multigene manipulations of photosynthesis will have been completed and we will be in a position to provide lead events to CYMMIT for incorporation into prebreeding programmes. Importantly we also see the data from this work being incorporated into systems modelling of photosynthesis thereby leading to rational design outputs for further improvement and increased yield. We will embrace fully the IWYP guidelines in that we will manage the project effectively, operate in a collaborative and open manner, sharing methods and data, whilst maintaining the level of confidentiality required by IWYP with regard to IP.

Publications

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Driever SM (2017) Increased SBPase activity improves photosynthesis and grain yield in wheat grown in greenhouse conditions. in Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

 
Description We have carried out additional analysis of transgenic wheat plants with higher levels of the enzyme SBPase involved in photosynthetic CO2 assimilation. The results have enabled us to identify two homozygous transgenic lines that will be tested in field trial in 2017.
Exploitation Route This work can be translate into other crop species
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink