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In photosynthesis, the chloroplasts in green plants capture sunlight. They use the energy from it and convert water and carbon dioxide (CO2) into the building blocks of life.

Plants therefore make their own food, which allows them to grow and flourish. At the same time, photosynthesis removes CO2 from the atmosphere and releases the oxygen we breath. It forms the basis of life on earth.

But photosynthesis does not work efficiently. Plants in the field usually use only a small percentage of the solar energy they absorb. Often the photosynthesis process is limited, for example, when the temperature is too high, or there is not enough water available, slowing growth and food production. Increasing the amount of light energy that can be used by plants could have a huge effect on food production on the same piece of land, while decreasing the environmental impact.

Improving photosynthesis is a big challenge: different processes in the plant limit photosynthesis under different conditions, and each of these processes is regulated by different sets of genes. These processes are also sensitive to fluctuations in light, temperature, humidity, wind, nutrients, and other environmental factors. There is no one solution: each crop, in each part of the world, has different limitations.

The Jan IngenHousz Institute was founded specifically to meet these major challenges. As an independent, but highly interactive, Institute, it is uniquely positioned to do science in new ways. The institute brings together different disciplines, and research groups around the world, breaking down barriers to creative approaches to science, engineering, and development.


East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are sounding the alarm. The world's population is growing, while the area of suitable agricultural land is shrinking and harvests are declining due to climate change. More than 800 million people are still going to bed on an empty stomach.

A breakthrough is urgently needed. 

To this end, JII-researchers are working to understand and improve the green engine of agriculture: photosynthesis.

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