Associate Professor Yong-Ling Ruan is among the top authorities in the world on plant sugar metabolism and signalling

Sugar may be the key to future food security

Sugar may be the key to future food security and economic prosperity according to University of Newcastle Associate Professor Yong-Ling Ruan.

Among the top authorities in the world on plant sugar metabolism and signalling, A Prof Ruan has published an article by invitation in leading international Plant Science journal – Annual Review of Plant Biology.

Understanding the role of sugar in crop yield is A Prof Ruan's primary focus.

"Sugar is a key factor in seed development and the ability of plants to cope with weather extremes such as heat and drought," said A Prof Ruan.

The research has significant implications for crop yield, specifically the prevention of irreversible yield loss.

"Heat, drought and disease can cause substantial floral, seed and fruit abortion, resulting in the irreversible loss of entire crops."

The aim is to develop the technology to engineer the sugar metabolism of plants to maximise resistance to heat, drought and disease and increase yield.

"Climate change poses a growing risk, so the ability to create plants that are drought and heat resistant will help to secure global food crops and the economies that rely on them."

Eventually this technology could be used to engineer crops that are more beneficial to human health.

"In the future, this technology could allow us to grow crops that produce starch beneficial to human health. This could assist people suffering from diabetes or certain types of cancers."

Associate Professor Yong-Ling Ruan is based at the University of Newcastle Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement and School of Environment and Life Sciences.

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