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RIPE Project Engineering Crops That Use Water More Efficiently

RIPE Project researchers at a test plot.

Researchers from the University of Illinois' RIPE Project published new research this week that shows they have engineered crops that use water 25 percent more efficiently. RIPE Project/University of Illinois

Agriculture uses 90-percent of the world’s fresh water supply.  And as the demand for food around the world continues to rise, so will the need to find crops that use less water.

Now crop scientists at the University of Illinois have engineered crops that use water 25-percent more efficiently.  Their research was published Tuesday in the scientific journal “Nature Communications.”

Stephen Long is the head of the research project - Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, or RIPE, at the University of Illinois. Illinois Public Media’s Brian Moline spoke with Long via Skype from Oxford University in England, where he’s serving as a visiting professor this spring.  He explained how his team was able to achieve this increased water efficiency.

"What we've been able to do by changing the expression of a single gene, which is common to all crops, is to actually increase the efficiency with which the plant uses water."

You can read the article by Long and several other members of the RIPE Project below.