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Crops for the Future - Tackling the challenges of changing climates

Carlsbergfondets ”Semper Ardens” forskningsprojekter

What

The aim is to provide solutions for future sustainable food production in rainfed and semi-arid regions. By promoting development of perennial grain crops for food and feed production, the soil sequestration of carbon will be dramatically increased. Likewise, more frequent seasonal climate extremes call for drought resistant crops of high nutritional value which can produce a robust yield in semi-arid regions. To address these challenges, our research will focus on two crops: (1) Improving grain quality and yield in wheatgrass, a perennial grass closely related to wheat. (2) Enhancing the yield, nutritional quality and disease and drought resistance in sorghum.

Why

We will conduct an in-depth analysis of biosynthetic pathways in plants activated under stress conditions e.g. heat and drought. Likewise, the synthesis of proteins, carbohydrates, cell walls and bioactive natural substances will be investigated particularly in grains, with special emphasis on sorghum and wheatgrass. The study includes of the genetic gain obtained through millenniums of plant selection in forming the modern crop species grown today. These studies allow identification of major genes for drought tolerance, grain quality and yield to select rare genetic variants in sorghum and wheatgrass populations with large genetic diversity. The identified plants will significantly add to the knowledge on the plasticity of plant genetics and biochemistry in changing climates.

How

The project is carried out as an open collaboration between various world-leading partners e.g. the Plant Biochemistry Laboratory at the University of Copenhagen (Professor Birger Lindberg Møller), The Innovation in Agriculture laboratory at Queensland University in Australia (Professor Robert Henry), The Land Institute, (Dr. Lee DeHaan) in the USA and the Carlsberg Research Laboratory. By combining knowledge from the laboratories involved, great synergies are achieved, as the partners involved contribute with very different competencies, all at a very high professional level. It is planned to file patents covering the commercial aspects of the gained results followed by publishing in high ranking journals.

SSR

Climate change is already underway and the development of new plant crops with new characteristics is taking a long time. The project will show the way to ensure and accelerate the production of sustainable food under future difficult production conditions. The research will contribute new specific knowledge on plant genetics and their significance for drought tolerance, grain quality and yield. This knowledge is essential for a deep understanding of the genetic control of the biochemical pathways essential for the breeding of future cultivated plants. Subsequently, the developed varieties will enable a more sustainable production under the challenging climatic conditions of the coming decades globally for the benefit of the societies globally as well as local.