Breeding for better root systems: a new strategy to improve water and nutrient use efficiency

The Green Revolution has been based on the massive use of inputs and the selection of crops that respond positively to these conditions. However, the economic and environmental cost of inputs and their limited availability has led to change of paradigm. This module will illustrate how our increased understanding of root development and hydromineral nutrition and the development of root phenotyping techniques pave the way for the selection of improved root systems.

One of the pillars of the Green Revolution has been the massive use of water and fertilizers and the selection of crops that respond positively to these conditions. However, the high economic and environmental cost of inputs (e.g. N fertilizer) and in some case, their limited availability (e.g. rock phosphate, water) has led to change of paradigm and the search for varieties with more efficient water and nutrient acquisition for a more sustainable agriculture. Despite the key roles of roots in nutrient uptake and water uptake or abiotic stresses tolerance, plant breeders generally shy away from selection for root traits as they are complex to assess, very plastic, and because they require an important investment in terms of time and means. However, the development of new root phenotyping techniques and the increased understanding of root development and water and nutrient acquisition mechanisms pave the way for the selection of improved root systems.

Students will be introduced to the latest developments in root development biology and water and nutrient acquisition mechanisms in model and crop plants through courses by specialists in their respective field. They will also discover ongoing research in the local community.

 By the end of this course, students will:

  • have acquired a general knowledge on the molecular mechanisms controlling the development of root architecture and water and nutrient acquisition
  • have some skills on root ideotype definition through modelling
  • have acquired skills in formal presentation and discussion of research results
  • have studied recent successful examples of root breeding

Programme of 2017

The course is dedicated for the Master 2 "Biotechnologie des Plantes Tropicales " of the University de Montpellier.

It is organized by research units DIADE (teams RICE and CERES), Pascal Gantet, Soazig Guyomar'ch, Laurent Laplaze and Mikaël Lucas, AGAP (team M2P2), Christophe Pradal, and BPMP (team Aquaporins), Alexandre Grondin and Philippe Nacry.

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