PS Seminar Series: Engineering more per drop by manipulation of Crop Photosynthesis

Abstract: Agriculture currently accounts for more than 70 percent of our water use. Climate change and rising global food demand will require yet more of available fresh water for agriculture. Developing crops with a higher water use efficiency has been long sought-after with some, but insufficient, progress.In this talk, I will present the results of our modelling and some experience in practice, which suggests that photosynthetic manipulations could be achieved on a reasonable time-frame. I will show how these manipulations could substantially increase efficiency of water use in both C3 and C4 crops under rising atmospheric CO2.

Biography : Steve Long FRS holds the Stanley O. Ikenberry University Endowed Chair of Plant Biology and of Crop Sciences, at the University of Illinois. He is also the Distinguished Professor of Crop Sciences at Lancaster University, UK; and was the 2017/18 Newton Abraham Visiting Professor and Fellow of Lincoln College, at Oxford University, UK. His photosynthesis research spans from molecular and in silico design to field analysis of performance. This has been applied in increasing genetic crop yield potential and adaptation to global change. He has identified the most productive terrestrial plant so far known in the wild – the C4 perennial Echinochloa polystachya on the Amazon floodplain and also the most productive temperature plant – Miscanthus giganteus, which has now become a significant bioenergy crop. At Illinois he led the development of SoyFACE; which today is the world’s largest facility for understanding the impacts of atmospheric change on our major food crops under open air field conditions. It is a key facility for testing strategies for adapting crops to global climate change. He is currently Director of the $57M of the international RIPE Project which has developed and is developing such technologies for increased photosynthetic efficiency in crops for sustainable yield increases – this is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) and UKAid. He also Directs the DOE ROGUE Project which is engineering energy canes, capable for high productivity on marginal lands, and which accumulate large quantities of vegetable oils as a low-cost feedstock for biodiesel and jet-fuel manufacture. He has been listed by ISI/Clarivate as one of the Most Highly Cited Authors every year since 2006. He has given invited presentations on bioenergy, climate change impacts and food security to the President (not the current one!) at the White House, to the Vatican and to Bill Gates. He serves in advisory roles on key agriculture committees in the US, UK and EU. He is an elected Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biology and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013, and as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019.