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Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

Plants in a dry field

Agricultural production needs to dramatically increase to feed the growing population – but there may not be enough water. The Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project has discovered how to produce crops that need 25% less water without sacrificing photosynthesis or yield.

Increasing levels of a photosynthetic protein tricks plants into partially closing their stomata – the microscopic pores in the leaf that allow water to escape – enabling plants to conserve water to grow faster and yield more.

Research started out using tobacco, a model crop used for research, but now our team will focus on translating this discovery to food crops.

Stephen Long, Ikenberry Endowed Chair of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

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