Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

C4 rice: a challenge for plant phenomics

Robert T. Furbank A E , Susanne von Caemmerer B , John Sheehy C and Gerry Edwards D

A CSIRO Plant Industry and High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Research School of Biology, Australian National University, GPO Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C International Rice Research Institute, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines.

D School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4236, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email:

This paper originates from a presentation at the 1st International Plant Phenomics Symposium, Canberra, Australia, April 2009.

Functional Plant Biology 36(11) 845-856
Submitted: 21 July 2009  Accepted: 15 September 2009   Published: 5 November 2009


There is now strong evidence that yield potential in rice (Oryza sativa L.) is becoming limited by ‘source’ capacity, i.e. photosynthetic capacity or efficiency, and hence the ability to fill the large number of grain ‘sinks’ produced in modern varieties. One solution to this problem is to introduce a more efficient, higher capacity photosynthetic mechanism to rice, the C4 pathway. A major challenge is identifying and engineering the genes necessary to install C4 photosynthesis in rice. Recently, an international research consortium was established to achieve this aim. Central to the aims of this project is phenotyping large populations of rice and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) mutants for ‘C4-ness’ to identify C3 plants that have acquired C4 characteristics or revertant C4 plants that have lost them. This paper describes a variety of plant phenomics approaches to identify these plants and the genes responsible, based on our detailed physiological knowledge of C4 photosynthesis. Strategies to asses the physiological effects of the installation of components of the C4 pathway in rice are also presented.

Additional keywords: carbon isotope discrimination, chlorophyll fluorescence, CO2 compensation point, Kranz anatomy, photosynthesis, photosynthetic efficiency.


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