10.12.2018 10:47

CropBooster-P: An EU-funded Concerted Support Action (CSA)

HHU biologists help formulate European plant research strategy

Von: Editorial staff

Safeguarding food supplies for the world’s drastically growing population in the face of climate change confronts plant research with tremendous challenges. In the framework of CropBooster-P, an EU-funded project, researchers from eight European countries want to develop a research roadmap. Amongst the contributors are Professor Andreas Weber and Professor Peter Westhoff from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU).

Professor Andreas Weber (left) and Professor Peter Westhoff are working on a European roadmap for plant breeding research. (Photo: HHU / Jörg Reich)

The world’s population may well rise to 9.7 billion by 2050. To be able to feed this growing number of people and provide them with essential nutrients as well as cover the needs of the increasingly important bio-economy at the same time, crop production in the coming decades needs to double. On the other hand, climate change is threatening agriculture across the board: Higher average temperatures, drought, floods, extreme weather phenomena, soil erosion and salinisation.

New plant varieties are necessary that use increasingly scarce resources such as water and minerals in a sustainable way and can defy unfavourable conditions at the same time. And this with greater nutritional quality and far higher biomass.

The development of such sustainable crops presents research with a wide spectrum of challenges. Institutes from eight European countries – Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom – headed by the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands have now joined forces to formulate a pan-European research strategy for sustainable food and nutrition security. Within the CropBooster-P project, researchers want to explore promising research approaches and methods. The EU is funding this activity, known as a Concerted Support Action (CSA), over three years.

Professor Peter Westhoff from the Department of the Developmental and Molecular Biology of Plants and Professor Andreas Weber from the Institute of Plant Biochemistry are closely involved in the strategy development process. “HHU is co-shaping a pan-EU blueprint for future Community research funding in the areas of plant and crop sciences,” say Professor Westhoff. “The goal is to develop a European flagship project for our field of research, similar to the Human Brain Project,” adds Professor Weber.

Specifically, the intention is for HHU to study current and future methods and techniques for increasing the nutritional quality and yield of crops such as maize, rape and wheat. In addition, the aim is to intensify and assess international cooperation between stakeholders worldwide, which could result in new synergies through closer networking.

“Plant researchers are not dreamers in an ivory tower,” says Professor Westhoff. “Instead, they are aware of their social responsibility. They want to contribute to mastering one of the world’s greatest challenges: A sufficient food supply for the entire population on this planet.”

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