The global population is estimated to rise by 2 billion by 2050 placing strains on major food crops. To sustainably feed future populations and reduce the environmental damage of intensive agriculture, crop yields must be improved without increasing the amount of cultivatable land. In this review, Simkin et al. discuss recent progress of increasing crop biomass and seed yield through optimising photosynthetic efficiency. Successful transgenic manipulations of individual enzymes involved in photorespiration, electron transport and the Calvin-Benson cycle along with their implications for plant growth are examined. Multigene approaches are explored which can have both positive and negative effects for biomass accumulation depending on species and growth conditions. Improving photosynthetic efficiency alone is unlikely to satisfy the growing food demand and thus efforts should be made to optimise water and nitrogen use efficiency as well as responses to environmental stresses (Summary by Alex Bowles) J Exp Bot 10.1093/jxb/ery445.
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