How plants adjust to varying light levels

Photosynthesis means plants absorb the sun’s energy and use it. However, the light is always changing. Day to night, cloudy or clear, how do plants make the best use of the sun?


Plants have a set of proteins that enable plants to adjust their photosynthesis in response to fluctuating light intensities.

Plants need to ensure a stable rate of photosynthesis and if the weather suddenly becomes cloudy they do something rather clever. They divert their energy from absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen, and they minimise heat loss as quickly as possible and slow their metabolic rate.

This helps keep they plant going if it is particularly cloudy or when the daylight becomes shorter in winter, for example.


Scientists are looking at ways of reversing this protein. Meaning that if they could boost the efficiency of plants, they can improve a plant’s fruit/flower yield.

That could mean anything from more grapes on a single vine, to larger roses.

Plant-in-Ray-of-Sunlight.jpgWhat if there’s too much sun? Can plants adjust to that too?

Excess of sunlight can damage a plant beyond repair which could stunt growth, yield or even kill the entire plant.

To protect themselves, plants have receptors that detect when there is too much sunlight, they use the extra energy harvested and to be dissipated. This certainly helps a plant but only works to an extent and therefore doesn’t make the plant invincible.



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