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Stephen Long


Stephen Long FRS is Gutgesell Endowed University of Illinois Professor of Crop Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Lancaster, UK.    His photosynthesis research spans from molecular and in silico design to field analysis of performance.  He applies this in increasing genetic crop yield potential and adaptation to global change. He has identified the most productive terrestrial plants so far known from the wild and has studied the attributes that set them apart.  He developed SoyFACE; the world’s largest facility for understanding the impacts of atmospheric change on our major food crops under open air field conditions.  He is currently Director of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation international project on Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE).  Listed by ISI as one of the Most Highly Cited Authors of 2016.  Recent awards: Marsh Award for Climate Change Research from the British Ecological Society, Innovation Award of the International Society for Photosynthesis Research; and Newton-Abrahams Visiting Professorship of Oxford University.  He is Founding and Chief Editor of “Global Change Biology”.  

 

Engineering crop photosynthesis for sustainable global food security

Malnutrition costs more lives globally than any other cause.  UN-FAO predicts demand for food crops will increase 70% by 2050.  Yet the land base for crop production is diminishing and impacted by climate change.   At present rates of crop yield improvement, we will fall far short of this need.  At the same time, the genetic improvements that fueled the Green Revolution have neared their biological limits.  Photosynthesis converts sunlight energy into chemical energy in the form of plant biomass and ultimately our food.  Its efficiency in crops falls far short of the theoretical.  Crop breeding has failed to increase this efficiency. Computer modeling of the mechanism of photosynthesis and application of optimization algorithms suggest potential for significant improvements.  Large productivity increases in field crop trials have resulted from bioengineering of some of these predicted interventions. Insuring against an uncertain future needs full exploration of these opportunities and more successes, soon.  

 

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