Increasing the concentration of prolines such as 2-hydroxy-5-oxoproline, in the foliar portions of plants has been shown to cause an increase in carbon dioxide fixation, growth rate, dry weight, nutritional value (amino acids), nodulation and nitrogen fixation, photosynthetically derived chemical energy, and resistance to insect pests over the same properties for wild type plants. This can be accomplished in four ways: (1) the application of a solution of the proline directly to the foliar portions of the plant by spraying these portions; (2) applying a solution of the proline to the plant roots; (3) genetically engineering the plant and screening to produce lines that overexpress glutamine synthetase in the leaves which gives rise to increased concentration of the metabolite, 2-hydroxy-5-oxoproline (this proline is also known as 2-oxoglutaramnate); and (4) impairing the glutamine synthetase activity in the plant roots which causes increased glutamine synthetase activity in the leaves which gives rise to increased concentration of 2-hydroxy-5-oxoproline. Prolines have also been found to induce similar effects in algae.
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U. S. Department of Energy to The Regents of The University of California. The government has certain rights in the invention.