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      Historical gains in soybean ( Glycine max Merr.) seed yield are driven by linear increases in light interception, energy conversion, and partitioning efficiencies


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          Linear increases in light interception, energy conversion, and partitioning efficiencies have driven past yield gains in soybean. In modern cultivars, canopy light interception and harvest index are reaching theoretical maximum values.


          Soybean ( Glycine max Merr.) is the world’s most widely grown leguminous crop and an important source of protein and oil for food and feed. Soybean yields have increased substantially throughout the past century, with yield gains widely attributed to genetic advances and improved cultivars as well as advances in farming technology and practice. Yet, the physiological mechanisms underlying the historical improvements in soybean yield have not been studied rigorously. In this 2-year experiment, 24 soybean cultivars released between 1923 and 2007 were grown in field trials. Physiological improvements in the efficiencies by which soybean canopies intercepted light (ε i), converted light energy into biomass (ε c), and partitioned biomass into seed (ε p) were examined. Seed yield increased by 26.5kg ha –1 year –1, and the increase in seed yield was driven by improvements in all three efficiencies. Although the time to canopy closure did not change in historical soybean cultivars, extended growing seasons and decreased lodging in more modern lines drove improvements in ε i. Greater biomass production per unit of absorbed light resulted in improvements in ε c. Over 84 years of breeding, soybean seed biomass increased at a rate greater than total aboveground biomass, resulting in an increase in ε p. A better understanding of the physiological basis for yield gains will help to identify targets for soybean improvement in the future.

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          Yield Trends Are Insufficient to Double Global Crop Production by 2050

          Several studies have shown that global crop production needs to double by 2050 to meet the projected demands from rising population, diet shifts, and increasing biofuels consumption. Boosting crop yields to meet these rising demands, rather than clearing more land for agriculture has been highlighted as a preferred solution to meet this goal. However, we first need to understand how crop yields are changing globally, and whether we are on track to double production by 2050. Using ∼2.5 million agricultural statistics, collected for ∼13,500 political units across the world, we track four key global crops—maize, rice, wheat, and soybean—that currently produce nearly two-thirds of global agricultural calories. We find that yields in these top four crops are increasing at 1.6%, 1.0%, 0.9%, and 1.3% per year, non-compounding rates, respectively, which is less than the 2.4% per year rate required to double global production by 2050. At these rates global production in these crops would increase by ∼67%, ∼42%, ∼38%, and ∼55%, respectively, which is far below what is needed to meet projected demands in 2050. We present detailed maps to identify where rates must be increased to boost crop production and meet rising demands.
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            What is the maximum efficiency with which photosynthesis can convert solar energy into biomass?

            Photosynthesis is the source of our food and fiber. Increasing world population, economic development, and diminishing land resources forecast that a doubling of productivity is critical in meeting agricultural demand before the end of this century. A starting point for evaluating the global potential to meet this goal is establishing the maximum efficiency of photosynthetic solar energy conversion. The potential efficiency of each step of the photosynthetic process from light capture to carbohydrate synthesis is examined. This reveals the maximum conversion efficiency of solar energy to biomass is 4.6% for C3 photosynthesis at 30 degrees C and today's 380 ppm atmospheric [CO2], but 6% for C4 photosynthesis. This advantage over C3 will disappear as atmospheric [CO2] nears 700 ppm.
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              Raising yield potential of wheat. II. Increasing photosynthetic capacity and efficiency.

              Past increases in yield potential of wheat have largely resulted from improvements in harvest index rather than increased biomass. Further large increases in harvest index are unlikely, but an opportunity exists for increasing productive biomass and harvestable grain. Photosynthetic capacity and efficiency are bottlenecks to raising productivity and there is strong evidence that increasing photosynthesis will increase crop yields provided that other constraints do not become limiting. Even small increases in the rate of net photosynthesis can translate into large increases in biomass and hence yield, since carbon assimilation is integrated over the entire growing season and crop canopy. This review discusses the strategies to increase photosynthesis that are being proposed by the wheat yield consortium in order to increase wheat yields. These include: selection for photosynthetic capacity and efficiency, increasing ear photosynthesis, optimizing canopy photosynthesis, introducing chloroplast CO(2) pumps, increasing RuBP regeneration, improving the thermal stability of Rubisco activase, and replacing wheat Rubisco with that from other species with different kinetic properties.

                Author and article information

                J Exp Bot
                J. Exp. Bot
                Journal of Experimental Botany
                Oxford University Press (UK )
                July 2014
                30 April 2014
                30 April 2014
                : 65
                : 12
                : 3311-3321
                1Department of Plant Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign , 1201W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
                2Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit , USDA/ARS, Urbana IL 61801, USA
                3Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign , 1201W Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
                Author notes
                * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: lisa.ainsworth@ 123456ars.usda.gov
                © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 11
                Research Paper

                Plant science & Botany
                energy conversion efficiency,harvest index,light interception efficiency,partitioning efficiency,radiation use efficiency,yield potential.


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