The light environment in a crop canopy is incredibly dynamic. Leaves at the top absorb much of the sunlight, while leaves that are lower in the canopy are constantly moving in and out of the sun or shade. Photoprotection (NPQ) turns on to protect leaves within the canopy during sunflecks, but it does not turn off fast enough to match the kinetics of these light fluctuations. Thus, there are situations throughout the day when photoprotection is competing with photosynthesis in the shade and wasting light energy that could be used for carbon gain. We are using our fundamental understanding of how photoprotection works to alter NPQ and thereby improve overall photosynthetic efficiency and crop productivity in fluctuating light.
Our work on the “Relaxing Photoprotection” objective of the RIPE project is done in collaboration with the labs of Steve Long and Laurie Leonelli at the University of Illinois, Johannes Kromdijk at the University of Cambridge, and Jose Barrero and T.J. Higgins at CSIRO.
This research is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office through a subaward from the University of Illinois.