“Forplanta: plants fit for the future” is the name of the new Bavarian research association which will commence its work in August 2010. The University of Würzburg’s representative will be plant scientist Professor Rainer Hedrich. Joining him will be researchers from three Munich institutes of higher education and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The Science Ministry will provide the association with funding of around EUR 1.5 million over the next three years.
Climate change: scientists are anticipating increasingly volatile weather conditions, with more frequent periods of drought and heat. For plants, this means water shortage and stress. As a result, they are becoming more susceptible to diseases and pests – a trend that is threatening agricultural yields.
Studying plant response to stress
How exactly do maize & co. respond to stress? “To date, only the effect of individual stress factors on plant productivity has been examined,” says Rainer Hedrich. The focus of the new research association will therefore be on the responses that plants exhibit when several stress factors occur at the same time: heat, drought, and pest infestation.
The scientists are aiming to gain new insights using the model plant popular among geneticists Arabidopsis thaliana. There are species of this plant that flourish in dry and hot climes, but also in cold regions. Which genes are responsible for these adjustments? How are they controlled? Can they be manipulated to make plants less vulnerable to drought and heat? Such questions will be considered by the new research association.
Stress hormone abscisic acid at the heart of the matter
At the heart of the matter lie the water balance of plants and the hormone abscisic acid. When a water shortage occurs, this acts as a stress hormone: it prompts stomata in the outer skin of the leaves to close, with the result that the plant loses less water.
The researchers want to improve the effectiveness of this abscisic acid, so plants demonstrate satisfactory growth even when there is little water available to them. If this works: how will this manipulation affect heat tolerance and the plant’s interaction with harmful fungi and bacteria? The association also intends to answer this question.
Ethical questions about green genetic engineering
The approach rooted in natural science will be accompanied by projects from the field of social science and ethics: the relationship between man and nature is also to be examined – particularly in view of green genetic engineering, i.e. the genetic modification of plants. The Forplanta association will explore this issue through the Institute for Scientific Issues related to Philosophy and Theology at the Munich School of Philosophy.
Application of knowledge to cultivated plants
If the research is successful, the intention later is to apply the findings to cultivated plants.
However, in many areas of the world, the climate is changing at a rate quicker than the speed at which plant cultivation can deliver grains adapted to stress. “Green genetic engineering should close this gap,” says Professor Hedrich. “But even with this targeted and therefore faster optimization there is no time to lose. This is because it is also important that we make useful plants and crops fit to fight the pests that climate change will bring.”
Scientists involved in Forplanta• Prof. Jürgen Soll, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Department of Biology I, Biochemistry and Physiology of Plants (designated spokesperson for the association)
• Prof. Christian Kummer, Munich School of Philosophy, Institute for Scientific Issues related to Philosophy and Theology
Contact at the University of Würzburg:
Prof. Dr. Rainer Hedrich, Julius-von-Sachs-Institute for Biosciences at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-86100, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Emmerich | idw
Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München
The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering