Photosynthesis and Productivity Research

Leaf uptake of CO2 (photosynthesis) is the basis for plant productivity. We are interested in understanding photosynthetic mechanisms that allow plants to have higher net CO2 uptake rates, while minimizing the consequences due to tradeoff’s. Thus in order to optimize the photosynthetic rate of a crop, the mechanistic basis for photosynthetic response to CO2, O2, light, temperature, water, nitrogen and leaf structure must be understood.

Of course, processes at the level of a leaf are not necessarily indicative of those for a canopy. Thus a more holistic approach is needed where field, scale validations are done and physiological experiments are done in realistic environments.  

Our current goals are:

  • To understand the basis for the diffusion of CO2 to Rubisco – one determinant of photosynthetic capacity,
  • Find field appropriate screening techniques for maximizing photosynthetic capacity, and
  • Testing whether photosynthetic capacity is independent of variation in other desirable traits.

Ultimately our goal is to provide crop breeders with information that may allow them to select crops for high photosynthetic capacity inorder to ameliorate the negative effects of a desirable trait reducing water use.

Imaging of the changes in photosystem II efficiency after a signal – the effect rapidly radiates out from the leaf vascular bundlesImaging of the changes in photosystem II efficiency after a signal – the effect rapidly radiates out from the leaf vascular bundles. Exciting results, but how do we probe the leaf to find out what is causing the change in PSII? Our lab uses a variety of innovative gas exchange, fluorescence and other methods to do this often without invasive sampling.