Photosynthesis 2030+ Webinars

Photosynthesis 2030+ is a new webinar discussion group that takes place on the first Tuesday of each month.

The aim of the webinar programme is to communicate the state of the art in photosynthesis research, facilitate communication and promote collaboration within the photosynthesis community towards the common goal of improving photosynthesis in crop plants.

These webinars introduced by Dr Louisa Dever will explore different elements of photosynthesis from leading research groups. These contributions will help in developing the “Photosynthesis Research Roadmap for 2030+”  as part of the CAPITALISE project. 

Webinar programme

Tuesday 7th December 2021  14.00-15.00 Central European Time

In December we welcome Professor Roberta Croce (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Dr Marjorie Lundgren (Lancaster University)

Prof Roberta Croce

Prof Roberta Croce

Title: Non-photochemical quenching in plants: where is the quencher located?

Abstract: Excess excitation energy in the light-harvesting antenna of Photosystem II (PSII) can cause irreversible damage to the photosynthetic apparatus. In periods of high light intensity, a feedback mechanism known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), induces the formation of quenchers which can safely dissipate excess excitation energy as heat. I will present our recent results that provide a quantitative description of the contribution of different photosynthetic complexes to NPQ.

Bio: Professor Roberta Croce is in the Biophysics group at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.  Her research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of the light reactions of photosynthesis with particular emphasis on light absorption, excitation energy transfer and photoprotection.  In the CAPITALISE project, Roberta’s group will perform functional analysis of mutants with reduced chlorophyll content, produced by gene editing and of other mutants identified through phenotyping.

Dr Majorie Lundgren

Dr Majorie Lundgren

Title: Engineering C2 photosynthesis for crop improvement

Abstract: C2 photosynthesis is a rare carbon concentrating mechanism that increases photosynthetic efficiency by recycling and concentrating CO2 released by photorespiration. C2 plants therefore maintain the benefits of photorespiration (e.g., facilitating nitrogen assimilation) while reducing carbon losses from this pathway, allowing these plants to assimilate more total carbon than C3 plants under high temperatures and low and ambient CO2 concentrations, where rates of photorespiration impair crop yields. The C2 system may also convey physiological flexibility to tolerate temporally heterogeneous environments. The physiological benefits and broad ecological tolerance conveyed by C2 photosynthesis make this pathway a promising target for crop improvement. I will discuss the potential for engineering C2 photosynthesis into C3 crops as a promising approach to improve photosynthetic performance under variable environmental conditions and environments that promote high rates of photorespiration.

Bio: Marjorie Lundgren is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University.  Her research focusses on C2 and C3-C4 intermediate photosynthesis systems using ecophysiology and phylogeographic methods to understand how diverse photosynthetic systems evolve.  Her work highlights the agronomic potential of the C2 mode of photosynthesis to enhance photosynthesis under different environments.

Past webinars and recordings

Tuesday 2nd November 2021  14.00-15.00 Central European Time

Our second webinar features Professor Elizabete Carmo Silva (Lancaster University) and Professor John Cushman (University of Nevada)

Prof Elizabete Carmo Silva

Prof Elizabete Carmo Silva

Title: Rubisco activase isoform diversity and crop adaptation to dynamic environment.

Abstract: Rubisco plays a central role in photosynthesis. It is an essential, yet imperfect enzyme, and frequently limits carbon assimilation in crops. Regulation of Rubisco activity in plants depends on interaction with multiple cellular components and is continuously adjusted in response to environmental fluctuations. Rubisco is prone to inhibition by the tight-binding of sugar-phosphate derivatives to catalytic sites. ATP-dependent removal of such inhibitors by Rubisco activase (Rca) is regulated in response to changes in light and temperature.

Bio: Elizabete Carmo-Silva is a Professor in Crop Physiology, at The Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University. Her research on photosynthesis aims to understand plant responses to the surrounding environment to increase crop yields, focussing on the regulation of Rubisco by its catalytic chaperone, Rubisco activase.  In the CAPITALISE project Elizabete’s team will use their expertise to help identify key genetic regulatory elements that determine the abundance of specific isoforms of Rubisco activase and characterise gene-edited plants.

Prof John Cushman

Prof John Cushman

Title: Improving plant drought tolerance for a hotter, drier world using engineered tissue succulence and crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM).

Abstract: Crassulacean acid metabolism and tissue succulence are metabolic and anatomical adaptations that improve water-use efficiency and drought (and salinity) stress tolerance in plants. These traits are among the most widespread and successful adaptations in the plant kingdom for mitigating drought stress, and thus, represent highly useful traits for the design of climate-resilient crops. The current research aims to test optimized synthetic versions of crassulacean acid metabolism alone and in combination with engineered tissue succulence. The synthetic gene circuits developed by our ongoing research program will one day be extended to food, feed, fiber, and biofuel crops to improve their productivity, reduce photorespiration, improve water-use efficiency, and drought/salinity stress tolerance under the hotter and drier environments of the future.

Bio: Professor John Cushman, from the University of Nevada, is a world leader on Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM).   His team use synthetic biology approaches to engineer CAM into C3 plants to develop improved crops for food and bioenergy that are adapted to the changing climate.  The ambition of the research is to create crops that incorporate key benefits of CAM plants including reduced photorespiration, better water-use efficiency, and drought/salinity stress tolerance.    His research is also advancing understanding  about how the expression of CAM is controlled by environmental stress and the circadian clock.  In addition he group are working on using the cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) as highly water-use efficient, highly productive, and climate-resilient biomass feedstock for semi-arid regions of the U.S.

Tuesday 5th October 2021  

The CAPITALISE webinar series is launched by Dr Johannes Kromdijk (University of Cambridge) and Dr Steven Driever (Wageningen University)

Dr Johannes Kromdijk

Dr Johannes Kromdijk

Title: NPQ, a dynamic sunscreen with crop engineering potential.

Abstract: I will talk about the role of NPQ in protecting against too much light and why we think altering NPQ has potential for crop improvement.

Bio: Johannes Kromdijk is in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. His research focusses on the physiology of photosynthesis and its interactions with environmental drivers such as light, water, temperature and CO2 with the ultimate aim to improve crop productivity and water use efficiency. In the CAPITALISE project Johannes will lead work on the kinetics of photosynthetic responses and tuning the Calvin cycle. The Kromdijk lab combines techniques from ecophysiology, biotechnology, genetic engineering and mathematical modelling to understand how photosynthesis is affected by environmental factors, identify bottlenecks and design strategies to overcome these and improve photosynthetic efficiency under ‘real-world’ conditions.


Dr Steven Driever

Dr Steven Driever

Title: Beyond the sum of the parts. Photosynthesis in a crop context

Abstract: Recent improvements of photosynthesis have opened a tremendous opportunity to improve crops. Translating photosynthesis from the leaf to a whole crop, starts with detailed knowledge of the leaf level. How this influences photosynthesis at a whole crop level, requires capture of a large heterogeneity in light, nitrogen (distribution), microclimate and belowground parts. With a combined approach of experimentation and modelling, we investigate how to estimate and exploit improvement and natural variation of photosynthesis traits for improving crop yield.

Bio: Dr Steven Driever is an assistant professor of crop physiology at Wageningen University, his expertise is in crop physiology, photosynthesis, stress tolerance and crop growth models. His interests include improvement of photosynthesis and its response to stresses. Steven was previously a postdoctoral researcher for the RIPE project at the University of Illinois where he assessed the effect of leaf structure and speed of carbon dioxide diffusion on photosynthesis