31. August 2020

How can potato plants adapt to heat and drought? How can potato plants adapt to heat and drought?

Plant biologist Prof. Dr. Ute Vothknecht from the University of Bonn is a partner in the new EU "ADAPT" project to investigate the adaptation mechanisms of potato plants to heat and drought.

Close-up of potato seedlings in the culture vessels:
Close-up of potato seedlings in the culture vessels: - The ADAPT project aims to decipher the signalling pathways with which the plants mediate stress response reactions. © IZMB
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The potato is one of the most important staple food crop worldwide. However, a major threat to securing tuber yields is its susceptibility to heat and drought, which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change. While some knowledge is available about the responses to multiple stresses from model plant species such as Arabidopsis, similar knowledge is lacking for potatoes. The ADAPT project aims to investigate mechanisms underlying the potato's multi-stress resilience.

Potato originates from areas with cool climate and is therefore particularly sensitive to heat. Since the tubers grow in the soil, they are also extremely sensitive to flooding stress, which increases their susceptibility to disease. The ADAPT consortium will determine the molecular and phenotypic responses to different stress conditions, which are becoming increasingly important for potato yield under the difficult growing conditions due to climate change. Together with breeders, the aim is to identify traits and genes that can improve the stress resistance of this very important food crop.

Within the ADAPT project, the plant cell biology group of Prof. Dr. Ute C. Vothknecht at the Institute of Cellular & Molecular Botany (IZMB) at the University of Bonn will lead the development and application of genetically encoded sensors and gene reporters on the living plant. Successful stress adaptation requires metabolic and morphological reprogramming - triggered by various signaling pathways mediated by calcium signals, reactive oxygen species and hormones. Different signalling pathways interact at several regulatory levels, triggering responses to environmental changes.

"In order to observe and predict the superior performance of a variant or ecotype, we need to understand these early signalling events and be able to predict their outcome under different conditions," said Vothknecht. "In addition, easily measurable signalling molecules can be used as markers to define the early onset of a stress reaction before it becomes visible and it is too late to take countermeasures.”

The consortium of 17 leading European academic research institutions, potato breeders, a non-profit EU association, a government agency and a developer of screening technologies is coordinated by the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna. The ADAPT project "Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato" aims to identify new breeding targets and to adapt potato varieties to the specific, challenging ecological growing conditions of the future. The project will be implemented over the next four years with a total budget of five million euros from the EU programme "Horizon 2020" (No. GA 2020 862-858).

Information on ADAPT: https://adapt.univie.ac.at


Prof. Dr. Ute C. Vothknecht:
Plant Cell Biology - IZMB
University of Bonn
Phone +49-(0)228-735999
e-mail: vothknecht@uni-bonn.de

Prof. Dr. Ute Vothknecht with a culture vessel:
Prof. Dr. Ute Vothknecht with a culture vessel: - It contains potato seedlings carrying genetically encoded sensors that indicate stress-induced Ca2+ signals. © IZMB
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