Many approaches to engineer source strength have been proposed to enhance crop yield potential. However, a well-co-ordinated source–sink relationship is required finally to realize the promised increase in crop yield potential in the farmer’s field. Source–sink interaction has been intensively studied for decades, and a vast amount of knowledge about the interaction in different crops and under different environments has been accumulated. In this review, we first introduce the basic concepts of source, sink and their interactions, then summarize current understanding of how source and sink can be manipulated through both environmental control and genetic manipulations. We show that the source–sink interaction underlies the diverse responses of crops to the same perturbations and argue that development of a molecular systems model of source–sink interaction is required towards a rational manipulation of the source–sink relationship for increased yield. We finally discuss both bottom-up and top-down routes to develop such a model and emphasize that a community effort is needed for development of this model.

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