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New Photosynthetic Corn Shows Strong Yield Increase

A new photosynthetic corn developed by Benson Hill Biosystems and Beck’s Hybrids is the first to carry the efficiency trait allowing corn plants to use sunlight and carbon to convert energy into grain without extraneous inputs.

The natural process of photosynthesis focuses on reproduction and survival, and is inherently inefficient at converting water, sunlight, and carbon into grain. However, Benson Hill and Beck’s have successfully developed a trait that boosts corn’s primary metabolism.

Through the process of controlling or enhancing the expression of certain genes and where the expression of these genes takes place in the corn plant such as in the leaf or certain cells, genetic circuits can be “dialed up or down” according to Todd Mockler, CTO and co-founder of Benson Hill.

After more than three years of trials across 12 different U.S. test sites, Benson Hill has documented consistent yield increases of between 8 and 9 percent across all test locations and across both irrigated and non-irrigated fields.

The team is currently developing a pipeline of photosynthetic traits with a range of actions for crops including cotton, potatoes, soybeans, sugarcane, and wheat, among others.

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