Bayer Enters Research Agreement in China to Improve Wheat Yields

Bayer has entered into a two-year research agreement with the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences (SIBS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The aim of the agreement is to improve wheat yields by sharing cutting-edge science and applying new models for improved photosynthetic efficiency in plants.

Over the past years, Bayer has already nurtured a close partnership with SIBS. A part of the Institute’s research focuses on photosynthesis systems biology, in particular on developing and applying models for understanding and improving photosynthetic systems in major crops. Under the new collaboration, researchers from SIBS will work closely together with Bayer on developing and validating a wheat canopy photosynthesis model.

“The world population is growing, and arable land is limited. The crops of the future will have to deliver top performance, especially in wheat, which accounts for about 20% of the world’s food energy intake today” says Jeroen Van Rie, Crop Efficiency Trait Research expert and Bayer’s lead scientist in the project. “In our joint research work, we have set out to build a wheat canopy photosynthesis model that will help us identify ways of improving photosynthesis and yield.”

Prof. Zhu Xinguang, Principal Investigator of the Plant Systems Biology group at Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology (SIPPE), adds: “Improving photosynthesis is one of the most promising approaches now to dramatically improve crop productivity. Model-based analyses are an effective way to identify new options to enhance photosynthesis. In this new grant, we will develop advanced wheat canopy photosynthesis models to help guide future wheat breeding.”

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water into carbohydrates and biomass. As crops today are cultivated at high density to achieve maximum yield, the plants tend to grow together to form a canopy that prevents light from penetrating to the lower leaves. While upper leaves frequently receive more light than they can possibly use for photosynthesis, the lower leaves remain behind their photosynthetic potential. Computer simulations suggest that changes in plant architecture would allow for higher levels of photosynthesis lower in the canopy, thereby greatly increasing canopy photosynthesis and consequently yield.

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