Long SP, Zhu X-G, Naidu SL, Ort DR. Can improvement in photosynthesis increase crop yields?. Plant, Cell and Environment [Internet]. 2006;29 :315-330. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The yield potential (Yp) of a grain crop is the seed mass per unit ground area obtained under optimum growing conditions without weeds, pests and diseases. It is determined by the product of the available light energy and by the genetically determined properties: efficiency of light capture (ɛi), the efficiency of conversion of the intercepted light into biomass (ɛc) and the proportion of biomass partitioned into grain (η). Plant breeding brings η and ɛi close to their theoretical maxima, leaving ɛc, primarily determined by photosynthesis, as the only remaining major prospect for improvingYp. Leaf photosynthetic rate, however, is poorly correlated with yield when different genotypes of a crop species are compared. This led to the viewpoint that improvement of leaf photosynthesis has little value for improving Yp. By contrast, the many recent experiments that compare the growth of a genotype in current and future projected elevated [CO2] environments show that increase in leaf photosynthesis is closely associated with similar increases in yield. Are there opportunities to achieve similar increases by genetic manipulation? Six potential routes of increasing ɛc by improving photosynthetic efficiency were explored, ranging from altered canopy architecture to improved regeneration of the acceptor molecule for CO2. Collectively, these changes could improve ɛc and, therefore, Yp by c. 50%. Because some changes could be achieved by transgenic technology, the time of the development of commercial cultivars could be considerably less than by conventional breeding and potentially, within 10–15 years.

Wray J. Response to "Malnutrition and dietary protein: evidence from China and from international comparisons". Food and Nutrition Bulletin [Internet]. 2003;24 :291-5. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Malnutrition, as measured by anthropometric status, is a powerful risk factor for illness and elevated death rates throughout life. Understanding the relative importance of disease, dietary quantity, and dietary quality in causing malnutrition is therefore of major importance in the design of public policy. This paper contributes to the understanding of the relative importance of quantity and quality of diet by utilizing aggregate data to complement previously reported individual-level studies. Three compilations of anthropometric data--one involving subjects from 13 provinces in China, another involving subjects from 64 counties in China, and a third involving 41 populations in 40 countries--are used to examine the relative importance for human growth of inadequacies of dietary energy and protein. The analysis involves regressing average adult heights and weights against estimates of average energy and protein availability (by province, county, or country) and per capita incomes. We use protein availability in part as a marker for overall quality of the diet, while recognizing that protein is far from perfectly correlated with dietary fat or micronutrient availability. The paper discusses issues of both data quality and statistical methodology, and points to relevant resulting caveats to our conclusions. Subject to these limitations, all three analyses suggest that, at the levels of dietary intake in these populations, lower protein intake is related to growth failure whereas lower levels of energy availability are not. The protein effect appears stronger for males than for females.

Gebbers R, Adamchuk VI. Precision Agriculture and Food Security. Science [Internet]. 2010;327 :4. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Precision agriculture comprises a set of technologies that combines sensors, information systems, enhanced machinery, and informed management to optimize production by accounting for variability and uncertainties within agricultural systems. Adapting production inputs site-specifically within a field and individually for each animal allows better use of resources to maintain the quality of the environment while improving the sustainability of the food supply. Precision agriculture provides a means to monitor the food production chain and manage both the quantity and quality of agricultural produce.

Becker S, Black RE, Brown KH. Relative effects of diarrhea, fever, and dietary energy intake on weight gain in rural Bangladeshi children. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 1991;53 :1499-503. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Quantitative studies of morbidity, food intake, and somatic growth were done prospectively during 14 mo for 70 children aged 5-18 mo in two Bangladeshi villages. When random-effect regression models were used, monthly changes in weight were inversely related to proportions of days in the month with fever and diarrhea and positively related to energy intake per kilogram body weight. Interestingly, weight changes did not vary with age in this interval. Estimates indicate that increasing energy intakes to the recommended World Health Organization level would have a significantly greater effect on weight gain than would the elimination of diarrhea and fever. With energy at recommended intake and diarrhea and fever prevalence as found in US children, weight gain is predicted to be near that of the international reference population. Therefore, interventions aimed at improving dietary intake may be as important as infection-control programs for improving growth of children in poor developing nations.

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