Steve Long, a professor of crop science and plant biology at the University of Illinois, began genetic engineering studies with tobacco and was able to boost yields by 20 per cent by adding genes from the Arabidopsis plant.
The genes keep the plant open to sunlight photosynthesis instead of taking time to transition when the plants go from full sunlight to shade.
Under full sunlight, there is more energy than plants need so they convert some to heat which they get rid of. But when they go into shade, it takes time to turn off the sunlight-suppression system. The transferred genes shorten this transition period.
“These are small plot trials. We don’t know that we would get such a big increase in a farmer’s field,” Long said.
But because the gene transfer worked for both tobacco and soybeans, it might work for all farmed crops.
But, oh my, it's genetic engineering. And the hand-wringing critics will be out there trying to prevent adoption of technology that could make the difference between health and starvation for millions of people.