RIPE Reinvestment

Scientists Stephen Long and Don Ort in a field.

Researchers led by Stephen Long (left) and Don Ort (right) will continue transformative work to increase yields of food crops for farmers worldwide through Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency with the support of a five–year, $45-million reinvestment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development. Photo: Brian Stauffer/University of Illinois.

In September 2017, FFAR contributed $15 million to the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, or RIPE, project at the University of Illinois. FFAR joins co-funders the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) for a total $45 million reinvestment to continue work on RIPE after initial research boosted crop yields by 20 percent by harnessing photosynthesis.

The next phase of RIPE will apply yield gains already realized in the field to staple U.S. crops, including soybeans, and crops that are critical to food security in the developing world, including cowpea and cassava. The $45 million reinvestment in RIPE supports this critical, ongoing research meant to break through stagnant yield ceilings, providing farmers around the world with another tool to enhance global food security and their own livelihoods.

Researchers anticipate commercial seeds benefiting from this research will be available to farmers within approximately 15 years. RIPE and its funders will ensure their high-yielding food crops are globally available, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, and affordable for smallholder farmers to help feed the world’s hungriest and reduce poverty. Agriculture has been shown to reduce poverty four times more effectively than growth in other sectors.

About Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE)

Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is engineering staple food crops to more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development.

RIPE is led by the University of Illinois in partnership with the USDA/ARS, University of Essex, Lancaster University, Australian National University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, University of California, Berkeley, and Louisiana State University.

Findings and Results

Fifty years of photosynthesis research, with several landmark discoveries at University of Illinois through state and federal partnerships, enabled RIPE to simulate the 170-step process of photosynthesis from the inner workings of enzymes to interactions between neighboring plants in the field. RIPE used these models to identify seven potential pipelines to improve photosynthesis, and with the support of an initial $25 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, began work in 2012 to try to turn their ideas into sustainable yield increases. Read more in a recent article published in Science.

The latest results and publications from RIPE will be available soon.