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Welcome to 3to4

Converting C3 to C4 photosynthesis for sustainable agriculture

3to4 is an EU Collaborative Project involving academic participants from:

  • UK (Sheffield, Oxford, Cambridge)
  • Germany (Düsseldorf, Hannover, Golm)
  • Italy (Firenze)
  • France (Cadarache)
  • Estonia (Tartu)
  • Turkey (Kahramanmaras)
  • Portugal (Lisbon)
  • China (Shanghai)
  • International Rice Research Institute (Philippines)

Together with the following industrial participation:

  • UK (Stream Projects - Cambridge, Lighthouse Design & Marketing - King's Lynn)
  • Portugal (iBET, Oeiras)
  • Switzerland (Nebion, Zürich)
  • Italy (Chemtex, Tortona)
  • Belgium (Bayer Cropscience)

Summary of the 3to4 Project

If photorespiration could be reduced in current C3 crops, or if they could be converted to use C4 photosynthesis, large economic and environmental benefits would ensue because of both their increased productivity and the reduced inputs per unit yield associated with the C4 pathway.

It is important to note that the huge advances in agricultural production associated with the Green Revolution were not associated with increases in photosynthesis, and so its manipulation remains an unexplored target for crop improvement both for food and biomass. Even partial long-term success would have significant economic and environmental benefits.

Efficient C4 photosynthesis is associated with alterations to leaf development, cell biology and biochemistry and so transferring these traits into C3 crops is a long-term undertaking. Despite its complexity, C4 photosynthesis has evolved independently over 60 times and this argues strongly for it being a tractable system to understand.

We will undertake fundamental research to uncover mechanisms underlying important aspects of the C4 leaf that so far have remained undefined. In the medium term, this will allow these important C4 traits to be transferred into C3 crops. In addition, to complement this long-term work, we will also increase photosynthesis by introducing a synaptic bypass for photorespiration into European crops. We will also build capacity for C4 research in Europe through the training of future generations of researchers.

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