ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis

The Centre’s goal is to improve the biological process of photosynthesis in the crop plants that humans depend on for food, such as wheat, rice and sorghum.

While the photosynthetic process has been intensively studied, improving photosynthesis is a new, and relatively unexplored, frontier in plant science. By improving photosynthesis, the Centre can contribute to a new yield revolution for food crops.

This revolution would be about creating new crop varieties – particularly of wheat, rice and sorghum- with enhanced photosynthetic capacity, and higher productivity. This includes varieties that produce high levels of grain in conditions of lower water, higher temperature and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Such crops are essential to feeding a growing world population, especially under the challenges of a changing climate.

To tackle this challenge, the Centre The Centre brings together researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), the University of Queensland (UQ), Western Sydney University (WSU), the University of Sydney, the CSIRO and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis was funded by the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence funding program to conduct research from 2014-2020.

Why Photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is the most important biological process to have arisen in the history of the evolution of Earth.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen. This conversion of energy, and the oxygen it generates, is the basis of all life on Earth.

Photosynthesis is particularly important in food crops because it affects how productive they can be – how large the plants grow and how much leaf or seed they produce.

The food crop yield increases achieved over the past forty years through plant breeding and fertiliser use are becoming less effective and cannot solve the food shortage the world is facing.

Because of this, improving photosynthesis is seen as the next frontier in achieving crop yield improvements.

Why Translational Photosynthesis?

The Centre researchers are approaching research in ways that are different to the norm. Instead of focusing on a few parts of the photosynthesis process, the Centre is researching the full process, from the internal functions of leaves to the way crops develop in the field.

The Centre is developing and using advances in photosynthesis research, crop bioengineering, plant phenomics and computational tools. The aim is to attain increased and sustainable crop yields, opening up the next revolution in plant productivity.

This process is what translational photosynthesis is all about – taking scientific discoveries from the lab and translating them to useful outcomes in the field.