During photosynthesis, plants use light energy to synthesize food (carbohydrates) for growth from carbon dioxide and water. As the key process in plant productivity, photosynthesis plays a vital role in every aspect of agricultural production. However, researchers and farmers do not fully understand how photosynthesis is affected by environmental, molecular, and genetic constraints. Alleviating some or all of these constraints could lead to substantial increases in plant productivity. Understanding photosynthetic processes could also help researchers develop new crop varieties with improved grain or oil yield or better resistance to water, heat, and salt stress. In these ways, exploiting the photosynthetic processes underlying plant productivity could help agriculture meet increasing demands for food, fiber, and biofuels. Because photosynthesis captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a better understanding of photosynthesis could also illuminate new opportunities for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels—a major factor in global warming.
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