Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A blue-green revolution: Upgrading photosynthesis - environment - 22 February 2011 - New Scientist

A blue-green revolution: Upgrading photosynthesis:Plants pirated the machinery they use for photosynthesis from bacteria more than a billion years ago. The same machinery is found in every single plant today, from tiny insect-eating sundews to colossal redwood trees - and it has barely changed. For all the architectural complexity that plants have evolved, they are still powered by the same engine they have had from the beginning. That's a bit like building a modern aircraft carrier and powering it with a Victorian steam engine.

By contrast, while photosynthetic bacteria don't look like they have changed much, some have made big improvements under the hood. They can convert carbon dioxide into food far more efficiently than most plants, and many are also able to make their own nitrogen fertiliser. If crop plants could be upgraded with just some of the improved machinery found in modern bacteria, agriculture could be revolutionised once again.

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