The ADAPT consortium held a Network Meeting of all project partners in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from 22 to 24 October 2023During the three days, all project partners shared their progress made as part of the project. The presentations showed the significant advances made and also included the remaining steps to be completed.
The meeting was very important, as the project is coming to an end in June 2024. Overall, it could clearly be seen across all work packages that the broad combination of technical expertise and sophisticated ways of data integration and application of modelling approaches started to gain significant progress.
Key project developments:
- A second round of high-throughput phenotyping (HTP), focusing on two selected potato varieties with contrasting levels of stress tolerance, was done in spring/early summer at the PSI HTP facilities in the PSI research centre near Brno (Czechia). It was visible that the optimisation of the experimental protocol produced a better visibility of the results. More importantly, it demonstrated that the selected varieties show the anticipated differences. Therefore, the molecular analysis, which is running now in several partner labs in the consortium, is expected to bring important insights.
- With regard to the molecular understanding of processes regulating tuberization – the ultimate key to potato yield under stress conditions – different labs made important progress. The Utrecht group presented first molecular mechanisms involved in the response to flooding stress, which has so far not been studied in depth, particularly not at the molecular level. It is clear that indeed significant difference in tolerance towards this important challenge for potato production exist among the different varieties.
- Also, the understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the developmental switch at the level of gene expression made great progress. For example, the JHI in Dundee (UK) could demonstrate that identified candidate genes indeed change levels of tuberization in transgenic potato lines under stress, which is an important proof of principle. Combined efforts of the groups at the CRAG in Barcelona (Spain), the Wageningen University (Netherlands), the FAU Erlangen (Germany), and the University of Vienna (Austria) could identify new players involved in regulating changes in gene expression for tuber formation and demonstrate the impact of calcium signals.
- Last, but not least, it became clear that the data integration and modelling approaches done at the team of the NIB in Ljubljana (Slovenia) are crucial to obtain an overall picture of the huge data sets that are generated in the field phenotyping (conducted by the ADAPT partners HZPC, Meijer Potato and the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety) but also in the HTP experiments, particularly if those are coupled to further molecular analyses as done in ADAPT. It could be seen how strong this work impacts the other Work Packages in ADAPT. In this context, first showcases for applying the Stress Knowledge Map (obtained in collaboration with the Universities of Bonn (Germany) and Vienna were presented that demonstrated how useful this tool will be for the scientific community to design new experiments and eventually to uncover novel regulators or modes of regulation.
Partners made a visit to the Slovenian National Institute of Biology (NIB), which has recently moved into their brand-new premises in Ljubljana. The ADAPT partners were very impressed by the new NIB facilities, which are state-of-the-art and will provide the institute with the resources it needs to continue its research.
The consortium will continue to work hard to meet its objectives and complete the project by June 2024. The next consortium meeting will be held in Bonn, Germany, in June 2024.
International Scientific Conference on crops for the future
Directly linked to the ADAPT consortium meeting, the International Scientific Conference entitled “Crops for the future – breeding for resilience 2023”, took also place on 24 and 25 in Ljubljana. This conference was co-organised by the ADAPT consortium and the UNTWIST project, which is also funded by the same Horizon2020 call.
The University of Vienna and the National Institute of Biology (NIB) took the lead in putting together a scientific programme highlighting current developments for breeding of stress resilient crops. Other EU-funded research consortiums were also invited to the meeting to present their ongoing work. This included two projects working on improving the photosynthetic efficiency under diverse environmental conditions (Phtoboost and GAIN4CROPS) as well as two other projects addressing more applied aspects aiming at improving plant variety testing with focus on crop varieties that are more adapted to sustainable management practices, and more resilient to climate change (INVITE and INNOVAR). This should foster collaboration and interconnectedness to boost research performance across several H2020 projects linked to sustainable agriculture of the future.
The Conference programme was complemented by presentations on application for newest technological developments in high throughput phenotyping using potato and cereals as example. Finally, the highlight was the plenary presentation given by Shenglin Jing from the Song Botao Lab (Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan Hubei), who shared the newest insights into the regulation of and functional dissection of key genes for potato tuber formation. In the discussion of the results during the poster sessions possibilities for future collaborations were explored.