A roadmap for research on crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to enhance sustainable food and bioenergy production in a hotter, drier world

Xiaohan Yang, John C. Cushman, Anne M. Borland, Erika J. Edwards, Stan D. Wullschleger, Gerald A. Tuskan, Nick A. Owen, Howard Griffiths, J. Andrew C. Smith, Henrique C. De Paoli, David J. Weston, Robert Cottingham, James Hartwell, Sarah C. Davis, Katia Silvera, Ray Ming, Karen Schlauch, Paul Abraham, J. Ryan Stewart, Hao Bo GuoRebecca Albion, Jungmin Ha, Sung Don Lim, Bernard W.M. Wone, Won Cheol Yim, Travis Garcia, Jesse A. Mayer, Juli Petereit, Sujithkumar S. Nair, Erin Casey, Robert L. Hettich, Johan Ceusters, Priya Ranjan, Kaitlin J. Palla, Hengfu Yin, Casandra Reyes-García, José Luis Andrade, Luciano Freschi, Juan D. Beltrán, Louisa V. Dever, Susanna F. Boxall, Jade Waller, Jack Davies, Phaitun Bupphada, Nirja Kadu, Klaus Winter, Rowan F. Sage, Cristobal N. Aguilar, Jeremy Schmutz, Jerry Jenkins, Joseph A.M. Holtum

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a specialized mode of photosynthesis that features nocturnal CO2 uptake, facilitates increased water-use efficiency (WUE), and enables CAM plants to inhabit water-limited environments such as semi-arid deserts or seasonally dry forests. Human population growth and global climate change now present challenges for agricultural production systems to increase food, feed, forage, fiber, and fuel production. One approach to meet these challenges is to increase reliance on CAM crops, such as Agave and Opuntia, for biomass production on semi-arid, abandoned, marginal, or degraded agricultural lands. Major research efforts are now underway to assess the productivity of CAM crop species and to harness the WUE of CAM by engineering this pathway into existing food, feed, and bioenergy crops. An improved understanding of CAM has potential for high returns on research investment. To exploit the potential of CAM crops and CAM bioengineering, it will be necessary to elucidate the evolution, genomic features, and regulatory mechanisms of CAM. Field trials and predictive models will be required to assess the productivity of CAM crops, while new synthetic biology approaches need to be developed for CAM engineering. Infrastructure will be needed for CAM model systems, field trials, mutant collections, and data management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-504
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Bioenergy
  • Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM)
  • Drought
  • Genomics
  • Photosynthesis
  • Roadmap
  • Synthetic biology
  • Water-use efficiency (WUE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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