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Project description

Exploiting biodiversity to boost the efficiency of photosynthesis for better crops

Photosynthesis uses light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates for plant growth and development. This natural process is crucial to sustaining life on our planet. The question arises whether photosynthesis can be improved significantly as a new strategy to increase crop yields. The EU-funded CAPITALISE project aims to answer this question by exploring three strategies in model plants: the tuning of the Calvin cycle, the kinetics of photosynthetic responses to changes in irradiance, and the tuning leaf chlorophyll content. The project will specifically focus on barley, tomato and maize in order to identify the genetic resources needed to improve their photosynthetic properties. The results of these scientific investigations can be translated to other important crop species. By 2030, CAPITALISE plans to have developed a solid strategy that will improve photosynthetic efficiency by 10 % in key crop plants.


There is a need for a ground-breaking technology to radically increase crop yields in Europe and beyond. Improved photosynthesis will be the foundation of these radical yield increases. We are an alliance of European plant breeding companies, a phenotyping technology developer and academic plant scientists. Our project aims to translate major advances in photosynthetic improvement from model plant species into three important crop species. We will capitalize on the three most promising strategies in model plants to identify the genetic resources needed to improve the photosynthetic properties of crop plants: (I) tuning of the Calvin cycle, (II) the kinetics of photosynthetic responses to changes in irradiance, and (III) tuning leaf chlorophyll content, thus providing new tools with which to increase the rate of CO2 fixation. To do so, we aim to discover the genetic basis for natural variation in traits associated with each strategy as well as use gene editing and transgenic engineering to improve photosynthesis in three major European crops: barley, tomato and maize. The findings will be used to build a complete roadmap including the feasibility of each specific technique to improve photosynthetic efficiency. Based on precedent, we expect that improving our targeted traits will result in increases in photosynthesis of 10% or more, and there will be added benefits in sustainability via better resource-use efficiency of water and nitrogen. A public dialogue programme will be used to ensure stakeholder engagement and explore further the societal limits to the acceptability of a range of technologies as potential routes to crop improvement. Looking to the 2030 horizon, this project will develop an adaptable strategy able to achieve 10% improvement in photosynthetic efficiency across a wide range of environments.

Call for proposal


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Net EU contribution
€ 1 052 298,33
Droevendaalsesteeg 4
6708 PB Wageningen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Veluwe
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 2 964,17

Participants (20)