Plants are the foundation of our entire agricultural industry and a few select crops provide the majority of the calories we consume. Even with centuries of intense cultivation, most domesticated crops remain very inefficient at converting sunlight to biomass (2–3%) and even less efficient (a little over 1%) at converting sunlight into grains and seed. These inefficiencies exist because plants have evolved to survive in the wild under various challenging conditions and threats. However the high yield that we find desirable in a managed field setting often goes against the way plants have evolved to optimize their survival.
PhotoSeed™ is a biotech trait that addresses two of the major bottlenecks of photosynthesis — the ability of the plant to capture sunlight and the rate at which the plant fixes carbon dioxide. The value of addressing these bottlenecks is vital to increasing seed and grain yield. Although sunlight is an abundant and free resource, most of it cannot be captured and used by the plant. In fact, roughly 98% of solar energy occurs at wavelengths that are unsuitable for photosynthesis and excess light can actually cause damage and stress. With PhotoSeed, the plant increases the amount of chlorophyll — the molecule responsible for absorbing light energy — in the leaf, allowing more light energy to be converted to chemical energy.
PhotoSeed also allows the plant to fix more CO2 by increasing the CO2 concentration inside the chloroplast. Under ideal conditions, most plants are only about 75% efficient at fixing carbon, the process that converts CO2 to energy-rich molecules such as glucose. Under conditions of stress, such as drought or high heat, this conversion rate drops significantly. Under stress conditions plants can spend half of their energy being completely unproductive. PhotoSeed plants have demonstrated up to a 24% increase in carbon assimilation, which has translated into greater than 20% yield increases.
PhotoSeed is a trademark of ZeaKal, Inc.