Creation of essential technologies to utilize carbon dioxide as a resource through the enhancement of plant productivity and the exploitation of plant products

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Research Area

Creation of essential technologies to utilize carbon dioxide as a resource through the enhancement of plant productivity and the exploitation of plant products

Outline of Research Area

 This research area targets the creation of essential technologies for utilizing carbon dioxide, as a resource, through the enhancement of plant photosynthesis and the exploitation of plant products.
 In detail, the research topics include
 1) developing essential technologies that enhance photosynthetic potential through an integrative and systematic approach to understanding the regulatory mechanisms of photosynthesis, the basis of material productivity in plants, with consideration of the interaction between metabolism and translocation of photosynthetic products and other metabolic pathways such as nitrogen assimilation;
 2) developing essential technologies that improve the photosynthetic activity, carbon storage potential, and biomass productivity of plants, through the elucidation of the mechanisms by which plants adapt to various environments; and
 3) the study of mechanisms of biomass production and decomposition, and the development of technologies for improved biomass utilization.
 In parallel with these three research topics, this research area focuses on collaboration and synergy in the fields of plant science and biomass engineering.

Research Supervisor's Policy on Management of the Research Area

 All the carbon compounds present on Earth have been formed by plant photosynthesis, where carbon dioxide is reduced to organic compounds using solar energy. Fossil fuels are also derived from photosynthetic products. The growing social need for a sustainable energy supply and conservation of the global environment by curbing carbon dioxide emissions indicates that plant photosynthetic activity and the biomass generated are being reassessed as basic technologies for utilizing carbon dioxide as a useful resource.
 Japanese plant biologists have made great progress in research, particularly research on model plants. Genes and molecules involved in photosynthesis and various physiological functions evolved by plants during their adaptation to various environments have been identified. Based on this research, improvements in independent elements have been made in photosynthesis efficiency using new plant variants and technologies have been developed for exploiting the biomass produced. The time has now come for Japanese plant scientists to help solve the social problems mentioned above. To meet the needs of society and to develop practical technologies, it is necessary to establish a research structure that allows plant scientists to utilize their skills in an integrated manner by targeting crops and other practically useful plants. Therefore, close cooperation and a clear sense of purpose is needed among researchers.
 This research area is supported by CREST and PRESTO, which were established to promote research to address current challenges. As mentioned in the Outline of the Research Area, the aims of this research are twofold: (1) the effective utilization of carbon dioxide by understanding and altering the material productivity of plants, e.g., enhancing the photosynthetic potential and exploiting environmental adaptations of plants; and (2) the development of essential technologies for converting photosynthetic products, such as biomass, into valuable products. For each CREST research project, a team should be assembled that integrates a wide variety of research fields. For example, a project may focus on improving the efficiency of several reaction steps in photosynthesis and creating plants that utilize these improvements. Alternatively, a project may focus on elucidating metabolic and catabolic pathways, although it should be connected to the development of technologies for producing valuable materials using altered metabolic profiles. Another project may focus on fundamental technology that bridges plant biomass decomposition and the synthesis of functional materials by chemical engineering and bacterial cell functions. A PRESTO project must involve bold and challenging research with a unique perspective or original and novel research that would be difficult to conduct in a more conventional team-based structure. This research will target the production of fundamental technologies for next and later generations. These two types of research will be promoted in a synergistic and integrative manner by the Research Supervisor in this research area. Interaction and collaboration within these research projects will accelerate the progress of each project and contribute to innovation in a broader field. We hope to achieve further progress by promoting connections across disciplines such as science, agriculture, engineering, pharmacology, and so on. Until now, research has been conducted separately in these fields. Tremendous progress can be expected if there are improved collaborations across various fields and with other R&D programs, particularly those related to plant functions for material production.