Land Plant Evolution & Photosynthesis

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International Symposia

Land Plant Evolution
Improving Photosynthesis and Crops

Thursday 20 June 2019

Room Gaia 1 + 2, Gaia Building, Wageningen University Campus


This day will consist of two mini-symposia. The first symposium will be about "The Planet of the Plants: The rise and success of green plants on land", with three international speakers.
Then, after lunch, the second symposium will focus on "Improving Photosynthesis for Higher Yielding Crops” in honour of Paul Struik’s anniversary of 40 years in science at Wageningen University. There will be four leading international speakers, including Paul Struik, who will cover several aspects of carbon metabolism, photoprotection and photosynthesis at various levels.

Participants can choose to join the entire day, or to join either of the two parts (please indicate your preference in the registration form, below). The entire day is free of charge, however, registration is required!

10:30 - 11:00 Registration of attendance & Coffee / Tea  
11:00 - 11:05 Welcome to the morning session
Eric Schranz, Professor of Biosystematics @ Wageningen University & Research
Dolf Weijers, Professor of Biochemistry @ Wageningen University & Research
11:05 - 11:50 The greening of Planet Earth as revealed from the fossil plant record
Jennifer McElwain, Professor of Botany @ The University of Dublin
11:55 - 12:40 Major changes in plastid biology and their conquer of land
Sven Gould, Junior group leader @ Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
12:45 - 13:30 The timing and nature of early land plant evolution
Philip Donoghue, Professor of Palaeobiology @ University of Bristol
13:30 - 14:00 Lunch for full-day participants + Registration of attendance for afternoon participants  
14:00 - 14:10 Welcome to the afternoon session
Niels Anten, Professor of Crop & Weed Ecology @ Wageningen University & Research
14:10 - 14:55 Modelling to better understand how metabolism contributes to plant performance
Yves Gibon, Senior Researcher @ INRA-Nouvelle Aquitaine & Bordeaux University
A key objective for plant sciences is to understand what influences the growth and quality of plant products, with a view to improving them. Metabolism is an obvious but complex target, with a number of highly intricate pathways that undergo extensive reprogramming throughout plant organ development, making it difficult to find the right targets for improvement. Systems biology represents a great opportunity to deal with this complexity. On the one hand we test newly emerging top-down approaches that could lead to highly predictive statistical models linking metabolome and plant performance. On the other hand we use a bottom-up approach to study fruit metabolism throughout growth and ripening. For this we have developed or adpated several mechanistic models to integrate data ranging from transcripts to biomass composition and growth. Once validated, the models exposed and explained the importance of carbon and energy management in growing fruits.
14:55 - 15:40 Manipulating aquaporins to increase photosynthesis and plant growth
John Evans, Professor of Physiology of photosynthesis @ Australia National University
Photosynthesis requires CO2 to diffuse into the chloroplasts to reach Rubisco. Leaves use stomata to control the transpirational loss of water, but stomata also restrict access to CO2. Diffusion of CO2 through the liquid phase of the mesophyll imposes a second restriction, termed the mesophyll conductance. Mesophyll conductance has been shown to depend on the surface area of chloroplasts adjacent intercellular airspace and the thickness of mesophyll cell walls. There is also evidence that the permeability of the plasma membrane and chloroplast envelope influence mesophyll conductance, associated with their aquaporin composition. Aquaporins are integral membrane proteins encoded by a large gene family. They form tetrameric complexes in membranes that are permeable to water and other molecules. We have been manipulating aquaporins to alter mesophyll conductance with the aim to increase photosynthetic efficiency and plant growth.
15:40 - 16:00 Coffee / Tea break  
16:00 - 16:45 Using the Interplay Between Photoprotection and Photosynthesis for New Crop Improvement Strategies
Johannes Kromdijk, University Lecturer @ University of Cambridge
In my work I am looking for new crop improvement and crop husbandry strategies by studying the physiology of photosynthesis and its interactions with environmental drivers. In this talk I will present research looking at the interplay between photosynthesis and photo-protection. When sunlight exceeds the capacity of photosynthesis to utilize the energy to assimilate carbon, several photo-protective mechanisms are induced to safely dissipate the excess energy as heat. This dynamic system protects the photosynthetic antenna complexes against severe photo-inhibition and bleaching, but can come at the expense of lower efficiency of photosynthesis. Our results with transgenic manipulation of photo-protection highlight several new strategies to improve photosynthetic light use efficiency, biomass productivity and transpiration efficiency.
16:45 - 17:30 Photosynthesis: the quantitative beauty of a balancing act
Paul Struik, Professor of Crop Physiology @ Wageningen University & Research
Photosynthesis is one of the last frontiers in crop physiology in which exciting developments have taken place during the last few years. Photosynthesis is a risky business for plants: although it allows them to produce biomass from CO2, water and light, it also exposes them to poisonous intermediary products, damaging radicals, and other threats, especially under fluctuating conditions or under stress. In addition to a marvellous system of harvesting solar energy through electron transport systems and proton pumps, green plants have also developed a multitude of alternative routes and processes to balance their energy budget and protect themselves from deleterious effects of overexcitation. Despite the risks, plants have evolved many ingenious variants that poise the photochemistry with gas exchange and biochemical synthesis. Our photosynthesis research and models have demonstrated how beautiful this balancing act is, but also how much we still need to learn to quantify this fascinating process that is so fundamental to crop physiology and productivity.
17:30 - 18:00 Drinks at the venue  


General information
Target Group This day is open to all, and aimed at people interested in land plant evolution and/or photosynthesis research.
Event duration 1 day
Number of credits 0.3 ECTS
Location Gaia 1+2, Gaia Building, Wageningen University Campus, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, Wageningen, the Netherlands



This symposium is free of charge, but registration is necessary. Participation in the symposium includes all coffee/tea breaks, a lunch, and the drinks at the end of the day.

PE&RC Cancellation Conditions
  • Up to 1 week prior to the start of the event, cancellation is free of charge.
  • In case of cancellation within one week prior to the start of the event, a fee of € 25,- will be charged.
  • In case you do not show up at all, a no-show fee of € 50,- will be charged.

These combined mini-symposia are organised by Prof. Eric Schranz and Prof. Dolf Weijers (morning programme), and Prof. Niels Anten (afternoon programme) of Wageningen University & Research, under the auspices of the Graduate Schools PE&RC and EPS.

More information

Prof. Eric Schranz (Wageningen University & Research)

Prof. Niels Anten (Wageningen University & Research)

Dr Lennart Suselbeek (Graduate School PE&RC)
Phone: +31 (0) 317 485426


To register, please enter your details below and click "Register".