LSU Department of Biological Sciences receives grant to continue research to solve food shortages

LSU Department of Biological Sciences receives grant to continue research to solve food shortages

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The LSU Department of Biological Sciences has received a grant worth just under $1 million to continue to study photosynthesis in algae. The research is part of a greater effort called the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (or RIEP), to find solutions for future food shortages.

The university is receiving the grant from several organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development to enable the researchers to continue their work on addressing the world's food challenges.

The biology department's Professor James Moroney has been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2011 when the organization created the RIPE project. At that time Moroney was one of only 13 scientists invited to the foundation's workshop to share his views on how researching photosynthesis could improve productivity in agriculture.

In a written statement released by LSU, Moroney said:

"This project is like a dream. I always considered my work on algae to be basic research. I have been interested in how algae became so efficient at capturing CO2 for photosynthesis. It is really fun to see that our work on algal photosynthesis might someday help improve crops and perhaps boost food production."

The RIPE program is engineering staple food crops to be more efficient at turning the sun's energy into food and sustainably increase worldwide food productivity. Researchers published a study last year that showed one of the processes could increase crop productivity up to 20 percent.

The organizations funding the RIPE program want to ensure that their high-yielding food crops are available and affordable for farmers to help feed the world's hungriest areas and reduce poverty.

RIPE is led by the University of Illinois in partnership with LSU, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, University of Essex, Lancaster University, Australian National University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and the University of California, Berkeley.

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