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TED Talks Daily

Can we hack photosynthesis to feed the world? | Steve Long

Nov 29, 2023
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11:31
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Crop scientist Steve Long discusses how hacking photosynthesis can help feed the world all while reducing climate change. He explores the challenges and optimizations of enhancing photosynthesis, including protein abundance, CO2 concentration, and crop density. He also talks about collaborations to develop insect-resistant crops for higher yields.
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Quick takeaways

  • Improving crop photosynthesis at the genetic level can significantly increase crop yields, helping address food insufficiency.
  • Using a digital twin system to model and optimize photosynthesis can lead to specific genetic improvements and over 20% increase in crop yields.

Deep dives

Improving photosynthesis can alleviate food insufficiency

The podcast discusses how improving crop photosynthesis at the genetic level can help address the issue of food insufficiency. The speaker explains that the rising demand for food, especially in poorer countries, is outpacing our ability to supply it. While photosynthesis is a crucial process that plants use to convert carbon dioxide into food, our most productive crops are only achieving one-fifth of the potential efficiency of this process. The speaker introduces the concept of using a digital twin, a system that models photosynthesis using differential equations, to identify areas for genetic improvements. By making specific changes to genes and proteins involved in photosynthesis, the speaker and their team have already achieved over 20% increase in crop yields. These advancements in photosynthesis have the potential to alleviate food insufficiency and protect the environment.

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