Press Releases

Sunlight filtering through upper layers of the corn canopy.

RIPE researchers determine chloroplast size unlikely option for improving photosynthetic efficiency

Chloroplast size affects photosynthetic efficiency in many ways, but is the current size optimal? A group of RIPE researchers have found, for the first time, that chloroplast size manipulations are unlikely to be an option for increasing crop photosynthetic efficiency.

Steve Long (left) TED 2023 Possibility April 17-21 Steve Long Crop Sustainability Scientist

Long to speak at TED2023 - POSSIBILITY

RIPE Director Steve Long has been announced as a speaker for TED2023: POSSIBILITY later this month.

Long will present his work on hacking photosynthesis to feed the world and tackle climate change.

Light filtering through soybean canopy_thumbnail

RIPE researchers prove bioengineering better photosynthesis increases yields in food crops for the first time ever

For the first time, RIPE researchers have proven that multigene bioengineering of photosynthesis increases the yield of a major food crop in field trials.

Emily Gibson, Liana Acevedo-Siaca, Coralie Salesse-Smith_HXK1 thumbnail

Researchers show potential for improved water-use efficiency in field-grown plants

By overexpressing a sugar-sensing enzyme, called hexokinase, in field-grown tobacco plants, researchers could improve intrinsic water-use efficiency without decreasing photosynthetic rates or biomass production.

BioCro with a gear and a flower next to it

Illinois team significantly improves BioCro software for growing virtual crops

A team from the University of Illinois has revamped the popular crop growth simulation software BioCro, making it a more user-friendly and efficient way to predict crop yield. The updated version, BioCro II, allows modelers to use the technology much more easily and includes faster and more accurate algorithms.

Long Lab

Fickle sunshine slows down Rubisco and limits photosynthetic productivity of crops

Researchers from Lancaster University are working to improve the sustainable productivity of key crops in sub-Saharan Africa have discovered a new imperfection in the way Rubisco functions in cowpea and believe this imperfection is likely shared with other crops.

Left to right, Tracy Lawson, Steve Long, Don Ort, and Kris Niyogi

RIPE researchers named on international ‘Highly Cited’ list

Four RIPE researchers are amongst 6,600 researchers around the world recognized by Clarivate as Highly Cited Researchers.

The top of corn plants against a blue and white sky

Dynamic photosynthesis model simulates 10-20 percent yield increase

A team from the University of Illinois has developed a model that treats photosynthesis as a dynamic process rather than an activity that either is or is not happening.

Steve Long in a field of cassava

Innovative technologies in the agricultural space provides food and climate security

A team of researchers, including RIPE Director Steve Long, proposed possible technological solutions to our food security and climate change emergencies. 

Young plants in dark soil


In their three-part series examining everyday life through the lens of chemistry, PBS NOVA is premiering an episode featuring RIPE's work.

Rice in pots in a greenhouse

Flag leaves could help top off photosynthetic performance in rice

Illinois researchers found that some flag leaves of different varieties of rice transform light and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates better than others.

Left to right, Tracy Lawson, Steve Long, Don Ort, and Kris Niyogi

Photosynthesis researchers rank among 2020’s most influential scientists

Four RIPE researchers were among 6,167 researchers recognized by Clarivate as Highly Cited Researchers this year.

An aerial image of a FACE ring at the University of Illinois SoyFACE facility.

To predict how crops cope with changing climate, 30 years of experiments simulate future

30 years’ worth of data from 'Free-Air Concentration Enrichment' facilities shows that although elevated levels of carbon dioxide may benefit crops, potential yield gains are counteracted by other factors.


Advanced biofuels show real promise for replacing some fossil fuels

A new study led by Colorado State University – including an interdisciplinary team of plant scientists, ecologists and engineers – predicted significant climate benefits stemming from the use of advanced biofuel technologies.


Research could save years of breeding for new Miscanthus hybrids

As climate change becomes increasingly difficult to ignore, scientists are working to diversify and improve alternatives to fossil-fuel-based energy.

By: Lauren Quinn | ILLINOIS ACES

Licors Rice Screenhouse

Photosynthesis varies greatly across rice cultivars—natural diversity could boost yields

A team from the University of Illinois and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) examined how 14 diverse cultivars of rice photosynthesize differently under constant and fluctuating light conditions. 

Yu Wang and Steve Long sit on desk next to a computer displaying their model.

Boost soybean yields by adapting photosynthesis to fleeting shadows, according to model

Soybeans may lose 13 percent of their productivity grappling with changes in light. 

Provost, Stephen Long, Associate Dean Ando, Dean Kidwell pose together

Stephen Long invested as the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences

Stephen Long has been invested as the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, one of the most distinguished honors at Illinois.

Graphic illustration of computer and papers.

Eight Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

Ort and seven faculty members at the University of Illinois have been named to the 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list. 

By: Liz Ahlberg Touchstone | Illinois News Bureau

crops can cheaply manufacture proteins inside their cellular power plants called chloroplasts

Scientists transform tobacco info factory for high-value proteins

A team from Cornell and Illinois engineered tobacco to cheaply produce high-value proteins—and found no decreases in yield. 


Improved model could help scientists better predict crop yield, climate change effects

Our team created a computer model of how microscopic leaf pores open in response to light to create better virtual plants.

Stephen Long

Lancaster scientist is cream of the crop

A scientist who is helping find urgent solutions to the need to feed growing global populations under climate change has been elected to one of the world’s most distinguished scientific organisations.

Stephen P. Long portrait in a greenhouse.

Long elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of Illinois crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen P. Long is one of 100 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Amy Marshall-Colon

Crops in silico 2.0: Project Extended

Developing crops using traditional methods is research, labor and cost intensive. However, Crops in silico allows researchers to quickly determine and test characteristics that help crops thrive in specific environments. This modeling allows researchers to conduct more experiments than can be realistically achieved in a field.

Erik Sacks with Miscanthus

When temperatures drop, Siberian Miscanthus plants surpass main bioenergy variety

Newly discovered Miscanthus plants photosynthesize 100 percent more efficiently in chilling temperatures than the industry favorite.


EU-wide initiative to ‘future proof’ our crops

Researchers at Lancaster University have joined a major European research initiative taking on the monumental challenge of ‘future proofing’ our food crops.


Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth 40%

Researchers report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions.

Steve Long and Don Ort stand in a soybean field.

RIPE project receives additional $13 million to accelerate progress to redesign photosynthesis

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increases RIPE project investment to complement support from FFAR and DFID to improve yields for farmers worldwide. 

Bundle sheath

Scientists debunk potential link to crop cold tolerance

Crops are far from reaching their photosynthetic potential.

Cassava seedlings grow in a black seed tray.

Cassava breeding hasn’t improved photosynthesis or yield potential

Unimproved varieties of cassava photosynthesize better than those selected for improved pest and disease resistance.


Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

As reported in Nature Communications, RIPE has improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent—without compromising yield—by altering the expression of one gene.

Miscanthus field

DOE grants $10.6 million to produce more biodiesel, biojet fuel

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the University of Illinois a $10.6 million, five-year grant to transform two of the most productive crops in America into sustainable sources of biodiesel and biojet fuel.


Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.

sugarcane harvester

Scientists: Expanding Brazilian sugarcane could dent global CO2 emissions

With expansion, the sugarcane-to-ethanol industry in Brazil could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent, an international team reports.

By: Diana Yates | Illinois News Bureau

ray tracing

New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers

A new computer model can predict the yield of different crop cultivars in a multitude of planting conditions. 

soybean field

Modified soybeans yield more in future climate conditions

Researchers have modified soybeans to yield more when both temperature and carbon dioxide levels increase, which suggests that we might be able to combat heat-related yield loss with genetic engineering.

sugarcane press

Scientists engineer sugarcane to produce biodiesel, more sugar for ethanol

Sugarcane can be genetically engineered to produce oil in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production. Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production.

corn canopy

Crop achilles' heel costs farmers 10 percent of potential yield

Two of our most productive crops, corn and soybean, have shaded leaves that are less efficient than the top leaves, limiting yield.

bioenergy crops

Open-source plant database confirms top US bioenergy crop

Scientists have confirmed that Miscanthus, long speculated to be the top biofuel producer, yields more than twice as much as switchgrass in the U.S. using an open-source bioenergy crop database gaining traction in plant science, climate change, and ecology research.

leaf cut by scissors

Soybean plants with fewer leaves yield more

Scientists predict that modern soybean crops produce more leaves than needed to the detriment of yield.

transient expression on leaves

Crop yield gets big boost with modified genes in photosynthesis

Berkeley and Illinois researchers increase plant proteins that result in more efficient use of sunlight.

GE plant graphic

Scientists tweak photosynthesis and boost crop yield, proving it can be done

Researchers report in the journal Science that they can increase plant productivity by boosting levels of three proteins involved in photosynthesis.

mepp robot

Something new under the Arizona sun: a robotic revolution in plant breeding

The TERRA-MEPP robot is based on autonomous rovers that search for accident victims in collapsed buildings and other confined, hazardous spaces. Team members are modifying this robust base to include miniature sensors—including hyperspectral, HD and thermal cameras, weather monitors, and LiDAR scanners—that will quantify key aspects of plants and the growing environment.

By: Claudia Lutz | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology | University of Illinois

researchers with robot

TERRA-MEPP awarded $3.1M to develop phenotyping robot

The University of Illinois announced that it has been awarded a 2-year, $3.1 million grant from the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). 

By: Susan Jongeneel | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology | University of Illinois