Four awards in European Call Sustainable Crop Production

9 January 2019

The Board of the NWO Science Domain has approved four project proposals for the European call Sustainable Crop Production.

This Cofund call of the ERA-net Cofund SusCrop (Sustainable Crop Production) is aimed at farm management systems for precision farming. Dutch researchers participate in international consortia to address the challenges of sustainable agriculture, food security and impacts of climate change.

The four projects are:

Prof. J. Falc√£o Salles, University of Groningen
Current conventional agriculture relies heavily on high nutrient inputs as well as massive use of pesticides. The concept of this project relies on the principle that plants naturally interact with beneficial (soil) microbes, making them less dependent on synthetic inputs. This approach will be particularly beneficial for potato cultivation where many varieties have underdeveloped root systems and are susceptible to pests and other environmental stress factors including changes in climate. PotatoMETAbiome aims at identifying potato genotypes that interact effectively with the soil microbiome. This helps to breed varieties that depend less on external inputs, while maintaining yield both under optimal conditions as well as under conditions of (a)biotic stress.
Altogether, this project will generate a resilient potato cropping system better able to recover from biotic and abiotic stresses. PotatoMETAbiome will contribute to the achievement of sustainable potato cropping by integrating biological, social, economic and environmental dimensions while addressing smart breeding strategies, sustainable production and climate challenges.

Dr H.J. van Eck, Wageningen University & Research
Conventional potato breeding takes place at the tetraploid level to exploit the yield advantage conferred by the naturally larger cells of tetraploids. We propose Fixation - Restitution (Fix-Res) Breeding as an innovative potato breeding system where self-compatible diploids are used to accumulate favourable alleles via rapid backcrossing schemes. Fix-Res breeding will also allow efficient recurrent selection to be harnessed in potato. The goal of this 3 year project is the development of all of the components that are required to enable the initiation of Fix-Res breeding. By the end of the project, participants will all be in an immediate position to initiate Fix-Res breeding programmes.

Dr C.J.E. Schulp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
To ensure food and nutritional security under climate change and reduce pressures on natural resources, the potential of legumes must be fully utilised. The LegumeGap project will contribute in this direction by identifying the potential contribution of new cultivars, optimal management practices, and farmers' knowledge in closing the yield and protein gaps, reducing the observed yield variability and EU-level protein shortfall, and optimising the environmental performance of legume production in Europe. The project will focus on two key representative legumes: faba bean and soybean, due to their growing popularity, broad adaptability and high protein concentration in the seeds.
The innovation of LegumeGap lies in its synergistic methodological integration and its detailed focus on the breeding, management, and knowledge innovation gaps of the two most productive grain legumes, faba bean and soybean. By covering all of the main European agroclimatic regions, as well as the pan-European level, LegumeGap will reveal environmental and socio-economic opportunities and constraints for enhancing the potential of grain legume production across Europe and point towards novel measures for resilient, legume-supported cropping systems, contributing to sustainable intensification under the challenge of global change.

Prof. C.S. Testerink, Wageningen University & Research
For plants to be resilient to abiotic stresses like salinity and drought, the root system is of vital importance. Roots are the primary organs that adapt their architecture and physiology to drought and salt stress. Their performance is key to the ability of the whole plant to recruit nutrients and water. Novel developments in biostimulants show that it is possible to affect root functioning and resilience towards abiotic stress such as high-salinity. However, despite the potential for agriculture, there is very limited knowledge on the mechanisms through which biostimulants act.
The goal of ROOT is firstly to provide fundamental knowledge on how to improve the resilience of crop root systems towards salinity stress. We will focus on tomato because it is an important field crop in European areas threatened by salinisation, and it has many well-organised resources (well-annotated genome, genetic resources). Secondly, ROOT will provide practical knowledge on strategies for reinforcing tomato resilience towards abiotic stress, and go from the lab to the field. ROOT will contribute to developing future cultivation systems for tomato in areas threatened by salinisation.

Source: NWO