A new way of making supper

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By The Staff

I take a personal interest in pickup trucks that can shut down half their cylinders to get better gas mileage when conditions permit. And I’ve studied the mechanics of hybrid cars that save braking energy to help power your vehicle a bit later in your journey.

Efficiency fascinates me.

But the efficiency of engines, as important as it is, pales in global significance to the basic efficiency of one piece of the living world.

Enormous business opportunities and satisfying meals both hinge on our ability to increase the efficiency of crops.  And the good news is that researchers are working hard to greatly increase the efficiency of the most important staple crop the world has ever known.

Rice provides more than a fifth of all the calories we humans consume. It is more important to stomachs worldwide than wheat, corn, rye or even Big Macs. In short, more than 3 billion people depend on rice as their main source of food, including most of the world’s poor.

But it happens that the basic way rice converts sunlight to carbohydrates is not efficient. In fact, rice is about as inefficient in the plant world as my 1987 pickup is compared to the new trucks that can shut down half their cylinders.

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