Essex is involved in a major research project awarded to the University of Illinois, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The aim of the $45 million project is to increase crop yields for farmers worldwide by improving plant photosynthesis − the process that enables plants to harvest energy from the sun and convert it to products for food and fuel.
The multi-million-dollar project, titled RIPE – Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, has already demonstrated yield increases of 20%. This further funding will enable the researchers to continue their work to address the global food challenge.
Led by the University of Illinois, RIPE brings together an international team of scientists in a joint project to exploit our understanding of the fundamentals of photosynthesis to increase crop yields of the major “C3 crops” such as rice, cassava and beans. With the United Nations today launching a new report on world hunger, this research is particularly pertinent.
Essex has had an international reputation for innovation and excellence in photosynthetic research for more than 30 years. The project leader, Professor Steve Long, from the University of Illinois, began his scientific career at Essex where he was based for more than 20 years.
Announcing the latest funding for RIPE, Professor Long said: “Today's report on world hunger and nutrition from five UN agencies reinforces our mission to work doggedly to provide new means to eradicate world hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and beyond.
“This investment is timely. Annual yield gains are stagnating and means to achieve substantial improvement must be developed now if we are to provide sufficient food for a growing and increasingly urban world population when food production must also adapt sustainably to a changing climate.”