Photosynthesis across African cassava germplasm is limited by Rubisco and mesophyll conductance at steady state, but by stomatal conductance in fluctuating light

Amanda P. De Souza, Yu Wang, Douglas J. Orr, Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Stephen P. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to see a 55% increase in food demand by 2035, where cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the most widely planted crop and a major calorie source. Yet, cassava yield in this region has not increased significantly for 13 yr. Improvement of genetic yield potential, the basis of the first Green Revolution, could be realized by improving photosynthetic efficiency. First, the factors limiting photosynthesis and their genetic variability within extant germplasm must be understood. Biochemical and diffusive limitations to leaf photosynthetic CO2 uptake under steady state and fluctuating light in 13 farm-preferred and high-yielding African cultivars were analyzed. A cassava leaf metabolic model was developed to quantify the value of overcoming limitations to leaf photosynthesis. At steady state, in vivo Rubisco activity and mesophyll conductance accounted for 84% of the limitation. Under nonsteady-state conditions of shade to sun transition, stomatal conductance was the major limitation, resulting in an estimated 13% and 5% losses in CO2 uptake and water use efficiency, across a diurnal period. Triose phosphate utilization, although sufficient to support observed rates, would limit improvement in leaf photosynthesis to 33%, unless improved itself. The variation of carbon assimilation among cultivars was three times greater under nonsteady state compared to steady state, pinpointing important overlooked breeding targets for improved photosynthetic efficiency in cassava.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2498-2512
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume225
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Keywords

  • Manihot esculenta
  • Rubisco activase
  • cassava breeding
  • crop yield
  • food security
  • genetic engineering
  • photosynthesis
  • sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

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