The interdisciplinary and multi-institutional team of students at the University of Illinois, under the watch of principal investigator Andrew Leakey, have been awarded a three-year grant worth $5 million dollars to increase the water-use efficiency of sorghum.
The University of Illinois student researchers hope that by decreasing the stomata -- small pores on the surface of the leaf used for gas exchange -- they can increase the water-use efficiency because there will be less moisture lost when the stomata is decreased. As a result of decreasing the stomata, a large part of photosynthetic activity will be transferred to the lower leaves, causing the higher local humidity to reduce water loss. The researchers predict a 40 percent improvement in water-use efficiency of the sorghum plant.
“That means that we should be able to expand the growing area into regions that are currently too dry to produce a profitable crop,” Leakey said. “And in the areas that are already suitable for growing, plants will suffer less in drought years, and make more biomass with the water that there is.”
Eventually, the research will allow for more than 9 million new acres of farm land to plant energy crop protection. The researchers also hope to increase crop yield on areas already farmed by an average of 30 percent.
Organizations in this story
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology 1206 W Gregory Dr Urbana, IL 61801-3832
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