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AFP
January 5, 2019

Scientists boost plant yield by 40% through ‘genetic hack’

World

AFP
January 5, 2019

WASHINGTON: For years, researchers at the University of Illinois have been trying to find out whether it is possible to genetically modify a crop to boost its growth.

In results published in Science on Thursday, they confirmed they had been successful in making tobacco plants 40 percent bigger thanks to a "genetic hack" or "shortcut." The wider goal isn’t to produce more tobacco but to apply the technique to wheat or soy beans, in order to meet mankind’s growing appetite. Their work is part of an international project that is being financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the British government, among others. Farmers have long used fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural methods to achieve higher productivity, but these techniques appear to have run their course and it is thought unlikely they can extract more significant gains.

The scientists at the university’s Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology say they have found a way to make the process of photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy, inherently more efficient.

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