Maize leaf showing the unique cell arrangements of C4 photosynthesis
International C4 Rice Consortium
In collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute, CSIRO is part of a major international food security initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
15 October 2009 | Updated 1 November 2012
With an aim to potentially double rice yields, the International C4 Rice Consortium is made up of scientist working together to understand the genes responsible for different photosynthesis mechanisms in plants.
Ultimately, the consortium hopes to find a way to replace the photosynthetic mechanism in rice with a more efficient mechanism in an attempt to meet worldwide demand for this staple cereal.
The Consortium is led by the International Rice Research Institute based in the Phillipines and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"The need for quantitative tools to rapidly select plants which will perform and yield better in our future climate is a major driver for new technologies,"
said Dr Robert Furbank.
C3 and C4 photosynthesis
The objective of the C4 rice project is not only to increase yield, but to improve fertiliser and water use efficiency in rice crops.
To achieve this a better understanding of the photosyntheitc pathways in plants is needed.
While the majority of plant species use C3 photosynthesis, C4 plants have a competitive advantage over C3 under warmer conditions and under drought and limited nitrogen.
For example, with the same input of water and nitrogen, maize (which uses C4 photosynthesis) can produce twice the biomass and yield of rice (which uses C3 photosynthesis).
This is achieved in C4 plants though a biochemical 'supercharger' mechanism which concentrates carbon dioxide inside the leaf, raising the efficiency of photosynthesis.
In close collaboration with researchers from the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, CSIRO scientists at the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre in Canberra will grow sorghum (C4) and rice (C3) under a variety of controlled conditions in state-of-the-art cabinets and green houses.
Using advanced research tools, such as fluorescence microscopy, chlorophyll fluorescence and high throughput image analysis, scientists at the HRPPC hope to identify the genes necessary to better understand these pathways and supercharge C3 photosynthesis.
About the scientists
Dr Robert Furbank is the Scientific Director of the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre.
Read more about the International C4 Rice Consortium at the International Rice Research Institute [external link].