Global CO2 concentrations have risen from approximately 270 to 400 ppm over the past 150 years with no signs of slowing, and at the current rate, the planet is expected to warm by roughly five degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This will lead to a number of detrimental effects on the environment and human society, not the least of which is a major impact on our current system of agriculture. At the root of this system is the process of photosynthesis, which is the best understood process in all of plant biology, but has always functioned outside of human influence…at least until now.
Donald Richard Ort is a professor at the University of Illinois whose area of expertise lies in the area of photosynthesis and the ability to reengineer it to be adapted for global climate change and to improve its efficiency in agricultural situations. This will be no easy task, considering the fact that CO2 concentration and temperature play competing for roles in a plant’s ability to photosynthesize and survive.
Professor Ort joins the podcast for an informative and compelling discussion on a variety of topics, ranging from mechanistic computer models used to predict how to optimize photosynthesis under certain conditions, artificial photosynthesis via biomimicry, why breeders have selected for upright leaf angles in grasses over the past several decades, the modulation of chlorophyll concentration in leaves, and SoyFACE, a research facility at University of Illinois where CO2 concentration and temperature are being raised in a controlled environment to learn more about and prepare for what’s coming in the near future.