University team search for superfood

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SHEFFIELD University scientists are to start the search for a super food that will help beat the battle against hunger around the world.

The £890,000 nationally-funded project which begins in the new year will attempt to breed new strains of rice plants which will take in the sun’s energy more efficiently and produce larger crops.

Experts will engineer plants to produce varieties of new leaf structures designed to increase the take-up of carbon dioxide which is fixed into sugars within the plant.

The new leaves will then be examined using a micro scanner to produce high-resolution 3D images before being analysed to identify each leaf’s strengths and weaknesses as well as which elements can be modified.

Project leader Professor Andrew Fleming said: “The concentration of carbon dioxide is changing so that plant leaves may no longer have an optimal structure for photosynthesis.

“We will create new leaves and test their efficiency of photosynthesis to see if we can identify an optimal future leaf design.

“The eventual aim is to use our knowledge to aid world-wide efforts to improve crops, in particular rice, the staple food for much of humanity.

“The breeding of such super crops is recognised as being a key element in the strategy to feed the world’s burgeoning population.”