Celebrating C4 Photosynthesis: 50 years of discovery and innovation

21 April 2016

2016 marks 50 years since Hal Hatch and Roger Slack discovered the C4 photosynthesis pathway, while working in sugarcane.

The C4 Photosynthesis Conference 2016: past present and future took place at the QT Hotel, in Canberra, from the 10 -13 April to celebrate this monumental discovery. The Research School of Biology was one of the main sponsors and 45 institutions from all over the world participated in the event, which was organised by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

In 2002, Hal Hatch described the discovery as “having many of the elements of a good mystery thriller”. This Conference has shown that C4 Photosynthesis hasn’t lost its excitement and that plant scientists continue finding plenty of fascinating and unexpected turns and applications in this thriller, which is less and less a mystery.  

Back in 1966, not even in their wildest dreams, did Hatch and Slack think that in 50 years, they would be joining a group of 187 researchers young and old, who would sit with them, take selfies, send tweets, get their autographs and talk for more than three days about all aspects of C4 photosynthesis.

During the first night of the Conference at the Plenary Lecture, Bob Furbank walked the audience through the C4 pathway, from the 1960’s when space travel was morphing from science fiction to fact, and ending with the promising future impacts of this research.

In the following three days 60 poster presentations and 34 invited speakers presented their research on C4 photosynthesis ranging from historical perspectives, enzymes and pathways, molecular biochemistry, genomics and evolution, cell biology, physiology and future impacts and applications of this research.

On 12 Tuesday, Rowan Sage from the University of Toronto, gave a Public lecture at the Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science on The evolution of C4 Photosynthesis that was attended by approximately 240 people.

The Conference was by all means a success with many opportunities for discussion and mingling, which according with all the positive feedback, everyone enjoyed enormously.  

We look forward to celebrating the C4 Photosynthesis 60th anniversary in a number of years.

- Natalia Bateman.

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