EU project studies potato’s adaption mechanisms to multiple stresses

28e68016-4ac7-415c-a5bd-967fcd48a809

Plant Biologist Markus Teige at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna has received a €5 million grant from the Horizon 2020 EU Program to study mechanisms into how potatoes adapt to multiple environmental stresses.

He coordinates a consortium of 17 European leading academic research institutions, potato breeders, a non-profit EU association, a government agency and a screening technology developer. The ADAPT project aims at identifying new breeding targets and matching potato varieties to specific challenging environmental growth conditions of the future.

The ADAPT consortium has successfully launched the project "Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato", which aims to develop new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. The ADAPT project is coordinated by Markus Teige at the Molecular Systems Biology lab at the Department of Functional and Evolutionary and will take place over the next four years, with a total budget of 5 million Euro from the EU Horizon 2020 program.

While there is some knowledge of responses to multiple environmental stresses from model plant species such as Arabidopsis, similar knowledge in potato is lacking. In the ADAPT project, the complementary expertise of 10 leading academic research institutions, four potato breeders, a screening technology developer, a government agency and a non-profit EU association will come together to investigate the mechanisms underlying multi-stress resilience in potato.

Markus pointed out that the potato comes from areas with a cool climate and is therefore particularly sensitive to heat. Moreover, as the tubers are growing in the soil, they are also extremely sensitive to flooding stress, which also increase their vulnerability to disease.

"With this project we will determine the molecular and phenotypical responses to different stress conditions, which are becoming increasingly important for potato yield under the challenging growth conditions due to climate change. Together with the breeders we will identify traits and genes that can enhance stress resilience in this very important food crop,” he said.

The project’s researchers will combine molecular biology, stress physiology, systems biology and analytics with engineering and molecular breeding and include end-user driven agencies for variety testing and potato trading to translate findings.

"Arising from our mechanistic understanding we aim to identify new breeding targets and matching potato varieties to specific environmental conditions. Knowledge from our research will directly reach the most relevant stakeholders and end-users feeding into breeding programmes and guiding technology development for improved crop management strategies,” Markus said.