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A cross-scale analysis to understand and quantify effects of photosynthetic enhancement on crop growth and yield
Photosynthetic manipulation provides new opportunities for enhancing crop yield. However, understanding and quantifying effectively how the seasonal growth and yield dynamics of target crops might be affected over a wide range of environments is limited. Using a state-of-the-art cross-scale model we predicted crop-level impacts of a broad list of promising photosynthesis manipulation strategies for C3 wheat and C4 sorghum. The manipulation targets have varying effects on the enzyme-limited (Ac) and electron transport-limited (Aj) rates of photosynthesis. In the top decile of seasonal outcomes, yield gains with the list of manipulations were predicted to be modest, ranging between 0 and 8%, depending on the crop type and manipulation. To achieve the higher yield gains, large increases in both Ac and Aj are needed. This could likely be achieved by stacking Rubisco function and electron transport chain enhancements or installing a full CO2 concentrating system. However, photosynthetic enhancement influences the timing and severity of water and nitrogen stress on the crop, confounding yield outcomes. Strategies enhancing Ac alone offers more consistent but smaller yield gains across environments, Aj enhancement alone offers higher gains but is undesirable in less favourable environments. Understanding and quantifying complex cross-scale interactions between photosynthesis and crop yield will challenge and stimulate photosynthesis and crop research.Summary StatementLeaf–canopy–crop prediction using a state-of-the-art cross-scale model improves understanding of how photosynthetic manipulation alters wheat and sorghum growth and yield dynamics. This generates novel insights for quantifying impacts of photosynthetic enhancement on crop yield across environments.