Cassava can benefit from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide more than other products


An aerial view of a field study at the SoyFACE research facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which examines how cashmere (the main root crop) adapts to futuristic climatic conditions. Researchers found that in seven of the eight species, crop growth ranged from 22 percent to 39 percent. Credit: Beau Barber / RIPE project

Photosynthesis of carbon dioxide fuels is the process by which plants produce their own food in the form of carbohydrates. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising rapidly, but there is uncertainty as to whether plants can turn these additional sources into higher yields while maintaining food quality.

A team from the University of Illinois and the University of Monash has studied how the box office, a root crop that feeds more than 1 billion people, will adapt to the expected amount of carbon dioxide in the second half of this century. Their products were grown in an open-ended research facility called SoyFACE, which artificially increases carbon dioxide to understand how rising levels will affect products in the coming decades.

This study is the result of a partnership between two international research projects supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Cassava Source-Zinc aims to improve cash register productivity; Implementing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), with the support of the Gates Foundation, the Food and Agricultural Research Foundation and the UK Office of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development, improves photosynthesis to increase crop yields.

Into Journal of Experimental Botany, said there was a significant increase, ranging from 22 to 39 percent in seven of the eight types of cufflinks. Each species selected for the study is a ‘preferred farmer’ in Africa, where the cashier makes up a quarter or more of the diet in different countries. Contrary to studies on other products, in addition to starchy tubers, they found no decrease in protein quality and nitrogen content in the leaves consumed by humans and livestock.

Cassava product

Ursula Ruiz Vera, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, collects cassava at SoyFACE as part of a study examining photosynthetic differences between cassava species grown in futuristic climates. The study found that in seven of the eight species, crop growth ranged from 22 to 39 percent. Credit: Claire Benjamin / RIPE project

“We wanted to know how the box office copes with the rising carbon dioxide,” said Donald Ort, deputy director of RIPE, Robert Emerson, a professor of plant sciences and plant biology at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology in Illinois. “Sometimes plants can’t use extra carbohydrates, which causes the plant to lower photosynthesis. We have seen that cassava can maintain photosynthetic efficiency and nutritional quality. ”

To absorb carbon dioxide, plants open small pores (called stomas) in the leaves that allow water to escape by transpiration. This study shows that when carbon dioxide levels rise from 400 to 600 ppm, cassava leaves can retain an average of 58 percent more water by optimizing stomatal permeability, which means that carbon enters compared to water from leaves.

Amanda De Souza, co-author of a postdoctoral researcher for the RIPE project in Illinois, said, “Cassava’s ability to produce high yields with little water is what makes this product a staple in drought-prone areas in sub-Saharan Africa.” “It’s not surprising to see this feature grow in C3 products, but it’s heartening to see that water scarcity will be a major barrier to food security.”

Although the team did not find much difference in the photosynthesis of the eight varieties, they discovered differences in their growth and development as they distributed carbohydrates to the roots, stems, and leaves of the plants. Cassava plant growers are trying to maximize the resources allocated to the roots, which are called ‘sinks’, where plants store carbon.

Ursula Ruiz Vera, a postdoctoral researcher for both projects leading the study in Illinois, said, “We can use these differences in distribution to develop cassava species that immerse more carbon in their roots to increase yields.” “We aim to increase the natural resilience and productivity of this uniquely placed crop to help small farmers cope with the pressures of our changing climate.”

Reference: 11 November 2020, Journal of Experimental Botany.
DOI: 10.1093 / jxb / eraa459 /

RIPE and CASS and their sponsors are committed to providing Global Access and providing the technology of these projects to the farmers who need it most.

Implementing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) aims to improve photosynthesis and provide farmers around the world with high-yielding products to ensure that everyone has enough food to live a healthy, productive life. Funded by the RIPE, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Food and Agriculture Research Foundation, and the UK Office for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development.

Cassava Source-Sink (CASS) is an international effort to improve the cash crop to support small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The CASS project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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