The goal of the POLAPGEN-BD Project

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Every day, it becomes more evident that successful breeding for stable high yield under drought conditions will only be possible when a true integration of traditional breeding with physiology and genomics is achieved. (Cattivelli i in. 2008)

The subject of the Project is drought resistance in cereal crops. Research and its results will be concerned mainly with spring barley because it is much more vulnerable to drought than the winter form and it is the most significant in Polish agriculture among spring cereals. The idea of the project is the result of many discussions with scientists and growers on increasing desiccation of the environment, observed mainly in the Polish Lowland, which reflects the water deficit in the soil. So far breeders have not had any tools that would enable them to carry out selection of genotypes resistant to drought. Development of such tools could accelerate biological progress in agriculture and increase competitiveness of Polish breeding companies. The study will be based on knowledge already gained and also collected during realization of this Project, which will refer to the variation of morphological, anatomical, physical and physiological features of spring barley grown in controlled conditions and subjected to drought stress, in conjunction with the analysis of the responses at molecular level. The results of the project will be verified on varieties of barley tested in the national recommendation trials. Markers developed on this basis as well as methods of measurement of drought resistance can be applied to selection of forms resistant to water shortage. Furthermore, tested barley (varieties and lines that could be used as starting material to breeding) will be catalogued, with information about characteristic and parameters of the genes determining resistance to drought.

The project consists of 23 research tasks carried out under POLAPGEN Consortium whose partners are 10 research units and 2 breeding companies. Tasks were formulated in such a way that they can study a wide range of characteristics determining plants’ resistance to drought. They will be performed by teams specialized in research on various aspects of plant resistance to drought and possessing appropriate experience and equipped with research equipment. All tasks will be realized on the same plant material, which enables integration of many research teams around the same problem solved in a modern way. Comprehensive approach to the problem of cereal resistance to shortage of water will enable to evaluate interdependence of various parameters determining that characteristic. System approach will be achieved by adopting a model of tolerance of plants to drought stress containing ecophysiologic, morphological, anatomical, metabolic, proteomic, and molecular levels considered in the context of genetics. Selected parameters of the model and interdependence between them will be evaluated. This approach is consistent with the modern approaches of system biology and quantitative genomics (see e.g. Wollenweber i in. 2005).

The results of the studies on localization of loci of quantitative traits related with ability to yield under shortage of water, the identification of genes associated with resistance, gene expression in drought condition, formation of physiological parameters related with adaptation to water shortage, quantitative and qualitative changes in proteins and metabolites as a result of drought stress, as well as identifying future water condition for crop production in Poland will be significant for agriculture development. The project will allow to set new markers for resistance to drought, both molecular and morphological, as well as new methods of evaluation of resistance based on physiological and physical indicators. Data obtained will also allow the creation of ideotype of resistant varieties, characterized by the complex of characteristics and properties at the whole plant level and at the cellular and molecular level. As yet visible morphological traits are the major tool used by breeding companies to carry out plant selection The future implementation of the innovative tools elaborated within this project will contribute obtaining better results in shorter time, to limit the scope of materials for breeding experiments, and thus increasing the profitability of the companies and their competitiveness in home and foreign markets. The social aspect of the project consists of creation new workplaces for biologists, biotechnologists and computer specialists in breeding and biotechnology companies, and the inflow of professionals and educated people to rural areas, where the breeding businesses are mainly located.