Thursday, 26 October 2023
An international team of scientists have been awarded €10M to explore how plants sense water stress, generating new knowledge that will underpin efforts to engineer more climate resilient crops.
The University of Nottingham and a team of European scientists from Norway, Germany and Israel have received the highly prestigious European Research Council Synergy award to reveal how roots and shoots sense water stress.
Water is the rate-limiting molecule for life on earth. The devastating impact of climate change is enhancing the effects of water stress on global agriculture. Climate change is causing rainfall patterns to become more erratic, impacting rain-fed crops in particular.
Previous research has shown that roots play a critical role to reduce the impact of water stress on plants by adapting their shape (such as branching or growing deeper) to secure more water.
This new research will take this further and investigate exactly what mechanisms plants use to sense and adapt to water stress, the findings will be vitally important for helping ‘future proof’ crops to
Water stress is a major problem for global agriculture given the impact of climate change. Europe has experienced serious droughts during 2022 and 2023. Despite its devastating environmental, economic and societal effects, how plants sense water stress remains unknown. The capabilities and expertise to discover exactly how plants sense water stress is beyond any individual researcher or team, demanding instead a partnership between several world-leading groups.
The team will use state-of-the-art imaging techniques including a new approach to follow water movement inside plant cells. These are the first such images ever generated, letting us see the process of water transport in real time.
Our discoveries promise to unlock how plants sense the most important molecule on the planet, WATER. This new knowledge will underpin efforts to design drought resilient crops and underpin future global food security.
ERC President Professor Maria Leptin said: “Congratulations to all the winners! The selected projects are shining examples of audacious scientific thinking, and I eagerly await the outcomes of these collaborative endeavours. I am also happy to see some European researchers teaming up with peers across several continents. Together, they are well-equipped to tackle the substantial scientific questions that our world is yearning to find answers to.”
More information is available from Professor Malcolm Bennet on Malcolm.Bennet@nottingham.ac.uk
Notes to editors:
About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.